Category Archives: trauma

Why “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy” is a Bullshit Lie I Live

IMG_6863There comes a time in you life when you are doing something really mundane, like going on your daily run, when you realize,

Shit.  I’ve been selling out.  I’ve been settling.  I’ve been settling for behavior from others and myself.

And there are layers to these epiphanies.  My first one?  Came when I realized I wanted to recover from my eating disorder.   My second?  When I wanted more from my life than forgetting the night before because of too many rum and cokes.

My 45th came today when I realized I don’t want to yell anymore.  And I don’t want a partner who yells either.

*****

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a co-owner of a business.

I have a shit ton of stress.

Because, as a woman, I’m expected to “do it all”.  So not only do I manage the money, I make the majority of the money upfront, and I also am expected to do all of the housework, manage my child’s appointments, playdates, extracurricular activities AND manage the psychological well-being of my child.

It was very furtive, wasn’t it?  How, in the span of 70 years, men have continued to deftly sidestep responsibility in any way they can.  Shit, I have to chores now? Guess I can still be lazy emotionally.  Sweet.

Before any right-wing idiot or plainly, insecure men jump down my throat, I want you to do something.  Walk up to the woman in your life.  Ask her what she’s worried about.  Chances are, her experience will be more rich than yours. She’ll be worried about being able to schedule their child’s gasto-intestinal appointment in between the clients she sees.  She’ll be thinking about how her husband yelling at their child mimics the traumatic experience she had as a child and how she’s failing.  She’ll be wondering if she can work out while the baby sleeps because somewhere, in the back corners of her mind, a demon tells her to be attractive for her boyfriend.  Now ask yourself if you have those same thoughts.

The pressures are not equal. NOT.  YET.

So when I hear, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy”, I want to scream.

Why?

Seems to be yet another misogynistic turn of phrase, so eloquently masked as feminism.  It’s misogynistic, because it puts all the pressure on the female to chart the course, when males are perfectly capable of doing some of the emotional work. They’re perfectly capable of putting themselves first, taking care of themselves so they don’t take it out on their children.

It’s just that we haven’t EXPECTED them to, since the dawn of time.

And it reinforces that disgusting, martyr-like dynamic in older women that I despise. “Poor me, I’ve put up with so much from your father.”

EXACTLY.  You put up with it. You’ve enabled it.  Women have enabled it.  And that’s our part.  And that can be changed.

*****

Am I a sanctimommy who expects herself or others to never yell?  No.  But let me tell the truth and talk about yelling, because a lot of us have a ton of shame over it.  And it’s important to talk about during this time of year, when kids are going back to school and transitions are driving us parents nuts.

We’ve been yelling too much in my house.  I know my part – part of me has been justifying my and my husband’s trauma histories.  A refined form of “If we were ok, then she’ll be ok.”  “I’m a good parent.” “I’m doing the best I can.”

Maybe I’m fucking not.

Maybe I’ve been enabling years and years of the masculine approach to things.  The masculine approach of anger, of forcefulness, of yelling.

All I know is, This Mama Ain’t Happy.  Period.  And I’ve been justifying stuff I’m not OK with.   That’s my part.

And it’s my husband’s job to work on his.

The Only Kind Of Bad Fat You Can Be

I love Jewel.  Go f$%6 yourself.  I love running to Jewel at the end of my workouts, cooling down while simultaneously basking in the imperfections of her folky, yodel-y, touchy-feely birdvoice.  And I love the song Goodbye Alice in Wonderland; it is my story.  As my bad knee started to kick in at the end of my run, and I rounded past the cemetery back to my apartment, her voice warbled into my ears,

Fame is filled with spoiled children
We grow fat on fantasy

And internally, I stopped;

because that was the story of my food addiction.

******

I grew up with big dreams.  I dreamt of becoming a musical theater star, and of falling in love with the perfect man at 25 and having this perfect family that would make up for any trauma I experienced.  I dreamt of leaving the little town I grew up in and never fit into, and moving to the big city and showing everyone that I was really meant for something bigger.

The problem with big dreams and being a big dreamer is that you often live not in the real world but inside your head, and you don’t seek outside help or opinions and ideas.  You rely on magazines and images and other people’s injured self-esteem to tell you what is right and standard and spin a world so small that you can’t see outside of it.

Translation?  I thought I had to do it all perfectly, and look like the 113 lb, 5 foot 11 chick in People (yes, they used to post their weights in the 90’s, and yes, I remember it because I will always have an eating disorder I am grateful for).  And I did it!  I lost 65 lbs in five months, because that’s what it took to fit in and be beautiful and be happy.

You see, I was “fat on fantasy”, just like Jewel said.  Because things were sad, and disappointing, and just plain tragic growing up, I escaped into fantasy.  It’s all I had, before I realized I could escape into food.  I escaped into the glamorous life I would lead someday, being successful and perfect and beautiful and therefore worthy of some man’s love.

And in that fantasy, I despised fat.  Fat meant failure and disappointment and wanting too much and loss.  But I was wrong; physical fat isn’t bad; it’s just fat.  Yellow, squishy fat.  But what was bad and what was hurting me was the fat fantasy I lived on.  I didn’t live in reality.  Into my twenties, I lived in a world where I rehearsed social situations and scenes that never took place because I was scared shitless to step outside of it.  Things were dramatic and romantic and dreamy in my head, and messy and unpredictable and scary outside of it.  And the more I expected my reality to be like my fantasy, the more I starved and binged.  It isolated me from that messy, unpredictable world – when I used behaviors, I didn’t have to feel anything.

I think I’ve gotten better.  I know I’ve gotten better.  When I first put down unhealthy behaviors, I could barely carry on a conversation for fear of what others thought of me; now I can banter a bit better.  But my “fat fantasy” still remains in bits and pieces – it’s there when I expect my relationship to be perfect 24/7 in order for it to be long-term, or when I think everyone should act perfectly at a party I host.  The fantasy still bugs me.

And poor fat!  I projected all of this fantasy onto fat, this morally-meaningless substance and made it bad.  When you know what?  It never was.  It just sat there.  And it sits beautifully on me and others today.  Today, I understand that a size 14 woman who is honest with herself is way better off than a size 2 who isn’t.  It may sound trite, but it took me a long time to get there.

So to those who get annoyed by my truth-telling; I do it because it’s hard and because I can’t afford to grow fat on fantasy again.  I do it because I see the world as it is, not as it should be or how my partner wants to see it or how it might look with an Instagram lens.  I do it because it’s how we move forward.  I do it to survive.

And I keep running.

Hi, My Name is Amanda, and I’m…Different.

normalIf nothing else, the following is true for me –

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.”

– Anonymous

*******

What I’m about to say goes against all advice given in any self-help meeting, but it’s how I feel, damnit.

I have often felt different than most, not a part of, less than.

Not always.  Sometimes, I feel on top of the world, totally present, and I love everything in my life.  And sometimes, I feel just like every other “bozo on the bus”, another nameless face in the crowd, which is honestly ok.  But often, I feel…different.

Why?

Well, let’s pick apart the seventy different kinds of recovery I’m in.  I can’t diet, I can’t drink in safety (in the words of Biggie, if you don’t know, now you know) and my therapist has diagnosed me with depression (that requires medication) and some trauma stuff for a long time now.  Let’s say this:  if you were a clinician, and you saw my rap sheet, you might wince a bit and say, “Jeez.”  You might expect me to be doin’ a lot worse than I am now.

Cause I am doing pretty damn well for the “stuff” I have.  I got my master’s degree, am successful in a field where I can turn my misery into someone else’s avoidance of said misery, and  have a family of my own.  I am fairly high-functioning; I am lucky.  Or resilient.

But there’s something funny about high-functioning anything-ers: they can slip more easily between the cracks.  They, in turn, can feel more different, because they mingle with the “normies” of society.  At work functions, at family parties, at friend’s BBQs.  They can be around people who drink or diet or binge or don’t experience the glory of mood swings, but it doesn’t make it any less hard.  In fact, it can be a particular kind of hard because they’re often the sole “different kid” in a group of “normies”.

So that’s why I feel different.

Self-help groups tell you to identify as just another worker among workers, which helps sometimes.  I’ll often use this example: I have a friend who is allergic to basically any kind of food.  So, I try to remind myself, “Wow.  She must feel the same way – like everyone is staring at her when she orders her food.  Maybe she feels different than, too.”

(And I do realize there is no normal.  And I do realize everybody’s got their thing.)

But I do think it can seem overwhelming to an individual when they realize –

“Hey!  I need an everything-anonymous!”

Fun.

How do YOU feel different?  Is there something that sets you apart from the crowd?