Married to a lady with no memory

This year, the first day of school happened to fall on a Wednesday, which is also Robbie’s day off. I was an absolute wreck worrying about sending our three children, two of whom are too young to be vaccinated, off to school during this catastrophically huge surge of the Delta variant.

In the days leading up to last Wednesday, it felt like my stomach was chewing itself from the inside out, my hands and feet were constantly sweaty, and I found myself walking in circles around the house, unsure of how to go through with the act of sending them to school during a pandemic. At the same time, thanks to years of therapy and ass-busting work, I managed to project a calm, cool demeanor when I wasn’t sobbing in the bathroom or cramming taffy in my mouth in the pantry. Staying calm on the outside is a skill I’ve worked hard to perfect, and it’s vital in our house because Maverick in particular picks up on my worries and tends to take them on.

Robbie’s way of managing me when I’m panicking like this is to suggest food. The last thing I felt like doing is driving downtown to have a nice lunch — OUR CHILDREN ARE SITTING DUCKS, ROBBIE — but I could see the value of a temporary distraction.

The thing about sobriety is that every so often, things come up from the past. For example, there are times when we’re lying in bed looking for a movie to watch.

“Let’s watch that one,” I’ll say.

“We’ve seen that already,” Robbie will answer.

“What? When?!”

I check the release date: 2015.

That’s when he will sit up a little straighter in bed and tell me exactly where we were and what was happening on the day we watched this movie that I have zero recollection of. And I always feel this strange mixture of sadness, shame, and gratitude because at least if we watch it this time, I’ll remember it.

On Wednesday of last week, when we had lunch at Cecelia’s downtown and he opened the car door for me and held my hand so I didn’t stumble in my wedges, I had another one of those moments. He was backing out of the parking space to begin the drive home and I was staring at my phone when he said something about how public bathrooms are never fun to use, but “nothing will top that time I had to poop in the one with the saloon door in New Orleans.”

I looked up from my phone. “What?”

He stared at me. I stared back.

He cleared his throat and raised his voice, probably thinking I obviously didn’t hear him the first time. “I SAID, NOTHING WILL EVER BE WORSE THAN THE TIME I BLEW IT UP IN THAT HOTEL BATHROOM IN NEW ORLEANS WITH NOTHING BUT A SALOON DOOR BETWEEN ME AND EVERYONE WHO WAS WALKING BY.”

I racked my brain. There was the faintest trace of a possibility that I might recall this happening, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Can you tell me this story from the beginning?” I asked, turning my entire body toward him to make sure not to miss any of the details, because let me tell you, it was the funniest thing I’ve heard in the history of ever.

One of the best parts of being married to a man I enjoy hanging out with is hanging out with him, making fun memories I don’t recall, and then getting to experience it all over again with a clear head. He humors me, and I hope it’s more fun than sad for him to get to re-tell these stories to the woman who lived through them with him the first time, but doesn’t remember a damn thing.

(If you liked this post, then you should follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!)

The catalyst

Oh, hi.

Want to know the truth?

Since March 2020, I’ve really struggled to write freely, especially here on my blog. How can I, when what I want to write about involves other people? The old Harmony wouldn’t have given writing about other people a second thought. She was haplessly selfish. The new me tries really hard to be truthful, but also careful. And sometimes those lines are blurry and hard to decipher.

So here’s the truth: aside from therapy assignments, and freelance work for Upworthy, I haven’t written anything at all since I don’t even know when. A writer who isn’t writing is either struggling with depression (check), overwhelm (check), or panic (double check). Weirdly, writing is part of what keeps me grounded and relatively sane, so not writing for long stretches of time is a sign that I’m not doing very well.

It’s time for me to start sharing again, telling on myself and getting my thoughts out because it helps keep me accountable and healthy. Also, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I’m doing light therapy which involves shining a very, very bright light at my face for 5 minutes per day until I no longer hate my fellow man.

Happily, I am still sober. This is nothing short of miraculous, and I’m here to tell you that recovery from addiction works if you do the work. Now, let me tell you: the work SUCKS. I simply cannot stress this enough. If you expect sobriety to be an easy ride, you’re gonna be pissed. However, the payoff to this is the ability to make it through a shit show of a year in one piece while the people and systems around you fall apart. Does it suck to be keenly aware of how bad things are? Absolutely yes.

So what keeps me moving forward?

My kids.

In March 2020, just before Covid-19 hit the United States, my oldest child tried to hang himself.

It was a perfect storm: he was stressed out over things that were happening at school. I was stressed out over things happening at school. Tensions were high, and when he’s anxious, he acts out. Even though I know better, sometimes I forget that when Maverick acts out, I have to look beyond the behavior to see the child. In March 2020, I forgot. I was frazzled and exasperated. I yelled at him. Robbie also yelled at him. The entire family was mad at him on that morning before school. His ADHD medication hadn’t kicked in yet, and the thought struck: they would be better off without me.

Of course it’s not true. The thought that entered my son’s head on a loop was a lie, but the voice was loud enough and strong enough to propel him toward gathering a stack of books while I was in my bedroom getting dressed. He took a belt and looped it through a pull-up bar that was in our living room, stood on the makeshift pillar, and put the loop around his neck.

My daughter, who was 6 years old at the time, came running down the hall shouting. I opened my bedroom door and asked her what was wrong.

MAVERICK’S TRYING TO HANG HIMSELF.

That is what she said.

Nothing made sense. That sentence didn’t make sense. Maverick’s trying to what? I don’t know how I got from the hall to the living room. My heart was in my throat. My face was stricken. White as a piece of paper. I caught a glimpse of myself in the round mirror on the wall and I didn’t know who that pale person was. There she is, the lady whose brilliant, creative, amazing kid tried to hang himself.

I couldn’t find him in the house. I was screaming his name and my throat was closing up. He wasn’t standing on the now-scattered stack of books that Pepper was pointing to.

I told her it was going to be okay, even though I had no idea if that was true. I still don’t. I told her she did the right thing and she was an excellent sister, the best sister. She knew to tell me, and I told her over and over, and have many times since, that she did the right thing.

She saved his life that day. She told him not to do it; her yelling at him to stop is what snapped him back to reality.

I found him sitting outside on the driveway, no shoes, holding his belt. His face was also white. We stood in the bathroom together, two matching white faces.

“Brush your teeth,” I said calmly, because even people who are contemplating suicide need to make dental hygiene a priority. He and I robotically got through the next few hours and days and then there was a pandemic that people still seem to be ignoring almost a full 18 months later.

Pepper started eating her feelings and then she started eating her hair. Everyone needed therapy. No one could sleep. And for the first 6 weeks of quarantine my life was a living hell. But then, as you may have read in my last blog post, it eventually got better.

It keeps getting better.

It’s been months since Maverick had thoughts of suicide, but sometimes the voice comes back. Sometimes, it’s louder. He trusts me now enough to tell me the truth.

My thoughts are scaring me again, Mom.

Children who are on the autism spectrum often have co-morbidities. What that means is, they almost always have another diagnosis like ADHD or OCD. Maverick has ADHD and anxiety, which he takes medication to manage. Often, when kids hit puberty and especially if they’re on the spectrum, they struggle with self-harm and/or thoughts of suicide. Multiple studies have been done on the subject and I can tell you from personal experience that my kid is a spectacular human being who also happens to want to end his life from time to time.

This was probably the catalyst for a lot of things I’ve done since then, namely cutting a lot of extra drama out of my life. I don’t have the bandwidth or the tolerance for anything even remotely toxic and I think right now, that’s appropriate. I have to stay sane and sober and strong and present so I can, you know, help my kid stay alive. This situation forced me to create a fortress-like set of boundaries around myself and my family.

Today, we are doing well — all of us. We’re grateful that our support system rocks. I want to stand on the roof of our new house and scream PSYCHIATRY SAVES PEOPLE! Because it does, and also I wish more people who know this amazing fact would talk about it. So many people, including myself, resist the idea of seeing a psychiatrist because that’s for crazy people. Well, no. It’s really not. Because my son isn’t crazy and neither am I.

We have crawled through this difficult time one day at a time, using all of the tools at our disposal. Therapy, meditation, sunshine, exercise, talking, resting, medication, giving each other grace. Every day that Maverick didn’t want to hurt himself and I didn’t drink or punch anyone in the face, we marked a success.

Because it was.

And now we are here, in July 2021. All in one piece. And I still can’t find the words to adequately express my gratitude.

(If you liked this post, then you should follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!)