My life is either falling apart or coming together

A lot has happened to me in the past couple weeks. Quarantine has been immeasurably difficult. I have been living with and coparenting with my ex husband, the father of my daughter. He continued to emotionally abuse and manipulate me. Us being home together all the time gave me no reprieve from him.

Here’s the thing. While I’m working so hard to work through my traumas and to learn ways to manage my depression and anxiety, it’s really hard to make progress stuck in a situation where I feel small when I go home. I described trauma work like being dragged across cement and at the end you feel stripped bare of your skin, feeling completely raw. That means you’re beginning to process things. Trauma work isn’t easy or comfortable. I’ve been going through that regularly with my therapist and in group but I come home to an unhealthy environment and it isn’t helping me get better. I’ve made a lot of progress. I can recognize when I’m in a crisis and I can evaluate what I need in the situation. But sometimes I can’t connect the dots. For example, I had a mental breakdown because I wanted to wax and I heated it up too much so it was too hot and it took too long to cool down. The truth behind that is that I wasn’t upset about the wax. I was upset about something my ex had said to me earlier that day.

I came to the conclusion that I needed to leave him. I couldn’t wait any longer, I needed to get out of that situation. I moved out of state to stay with my best friend until I can get on my feet. I had to leave my daughter back home with him, which was quite possibly the hardest part. Outside the airport, I hugged and kissed her and she cried when I put her back in her car seat. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I stood outside the car door window and she looked at me, pouting with tears in her eyes. It was heartbreaking. On the way to the airport, my ex was giving me a speech about how much he “loves” me. He also ended it by letting me know that he had cheated on me (for the second time) just a couple months ago. When that happened, it was right before I went in to inpatient because I was working so much, paying most of the bills, taking care of our daughter more than he did, while also juggling school. He would give me crap about dishes in the sink or my daughters snacks strewn all over the floor. He would tell me I wasn’t taking good care of her because I can watch her and look at my phone at the same time. I wasn’t allowed to have my own personality. All I was to him was basically a robot there to meet all his needs and disregarding my own.

That landed me in the hospital. I slowly started to realize, through all of the therapy and groups and medications, that I was being abused. I’d convinced myself it was normal. It’s a running joke that everyone hates their husbands, right? Everyone gets stressed out at the thought of him coming home from work? Everyone has panic attacks at the thought of him having a day off? Well, I was wrong. Being irritated at your husband for leaving stinky socks on the ground is not the same thing as being treated like an object.

So while I was going through a very, very difficult time in my life, he was having sex with his coworker in his car at two in the morning to celebrate her birthday. That’s cute, huh? I was basically living my life just to make him happy and he still went behind my back and betrayed me. He never was interested in me for who I am. He just wanted someone to help him with everything.

I left my daughter with him until I get on my feet because I want her to be in a stable environment, not sleeping on the couch at a friend’s place. It was very, very hard to make that decision and I miss her more than I’ve ever missed anyone in the world. After dropping that bomb on me, he made sure to call my toxic, abusive family and let them know I’d be in town. They know exactly where I am. They know who I’d stay with when I needed a place to stay. And they are possessive and narcissistic and believe I should be a good little girl and stay with them, where they know I won’t be able to “embarrass the family”. They also would love to get their grimy claws on my toddler so they can wrap her up in their toxicity and fill her up with the same traumas I grew up in. Not on my watch. My daughter is far too precious to me to leave her with them.

Last night, I was just so drained and heartbroken. I’d left my daughter, my cat, the man I spent four years with. I came to this place, so close to my toxic family. I was afraid to vent to my best friend because I convinced myself she had enough problems of her own and I didn’t want to burden her. I couldn’t control my crying and I told her that I was thinking about going to the hospital. I wanted to cook for her family as a thank you for letting me stay with them. While I made dinner, I talked to her and was honest with her. For the rest of the night, I didn’t want to be alone so I asked her to even sit in the bathroom with me while I took a shower because I was afraid to spiral on my own. That night, I felt that I need to disconnect and focus on myself. I disconnected from social media (though I’ll likely share this just to let everyone know what’s going on).

I need to prioritize getting myself together and getting on my feet. I don’t want outside influences, such as my ex and his friends or my family, to remind me of the past when I want to live in the present. I’m tired of being in a constant disassociative state where I feel like I’m not really experiencing my life, I’m watching someone else do it for me. I want to be stronger and healthier, for myself and for my daughter. I don’t want to instill in her the same traumas I had growing up with mentally unhealthy people who refused to acknowledge there was an issue. I want her to grow up with a mentally healthy mother who can teach her how to be mentally healthy herself. It seems like the bare minimum, but in this day and age it can require more effort than anything else.

So I may or may not vanish for a bit. Not like I have loyal followers on this blog I started earlier this month. Just thought I’d update. Thanks for reading.

The Circle of Security

The circle of security is a very valuable lesson on parenting that changed the way I parent my child. The circle is made for parents and their children, however it can often be applied to other relationships as well.

To begin this entry, I want to say that there are no perfect parents and everyone struggles at some point on the circle.

The top of the circle is where a child goes out to explore. The parent plays the part of the welcome arms, the secure base and safe haven. Exploration is necessary for every child’s development and they begin even as newborns. Their circles start out very, very small, such as looking around and then returning to the mother. A toddler and older children have larger circles that continue to grow. The parent’s role in their exploration is to support them. Talk to them about what they’re doing and be engaged. Help them when they need it. For a toddler, this will look like keeping an eye on them while they play and being engaged. The best way to support a child’s exploration is to narrate what they’re doing. For example, “Oh, did you find a lego? You’re putting the green lego on top of the red lego? Uh oh, did they fall down?” You don’t need to do this every second of every day but pay attention to your child’s cues. They can sense when you struggle with the top of the circle and that can cause miscues. If your child looks at you while playing, they want to know you’re there and you’re engaged with them. Even while doing work or chores, keeping an eye on them and engaging every so often is great and your child will feel more secure.

A child can sense that a parent is struggling with part of the circle as early as eleven months. When a parent has anxiety about letting a child explore, they can feel that. There are many parents who want to keep their children sheltered because they know they will be safe. Exploration is a huge part of growth and it’s important to give them that opportunity. Odds are, your child will be hurt at some point. I know that thought can be terrifying but they learn from it. A child who is locked away at home all the time with helicopter parents can grow to resent their parents for not allowing them to experience their childhood. Instead of sheltering them, allow them the opportunity to explore. If they are hurt, they will come back to you on the bottom of the circle and you can play your role as a parent by being the safe haven they can always return to. That gives children the freedom to make mistakes and the security of having a loving parent always there to fall back on. You can teach them how to be safe and give them the tools for success but mistakes are learning opportunities.

The bottom of the circle is where your child returns to you for comfort. In a small infant, this looks like them wanting to make eye contact with you or interact with you. You are their safe haven. In a toddler or older child, this looks like them coming back to you to connect and for comfort. The parent’s role in this situation is to provide that comfort and connection, but don’t judge it. There are no bad emotions and allowing your child to feel and explore those emotions will provide them with emotional security later in life. When your child is crying and comes to you for comfort, it’s important not to make them feel as though their feelings are invalid. When your child wants a red cup and you give them the blue cup because the red cup is in the dishwasher, and they cry and tantrum because they wanted the red cup, validate their feelings anyway. It might seem small to you but to them, its huge. They feel big feelings and those feelings are okay. My daughter is 18 months and tantrums when I won’t give her my water bottle. She always has her own and even if it’s full, for some reason mommy’s just looks so much better. I don’t like sharing because of the back wash and then she will often throw a tantrum. In this scenario, I comfort her so that she knows when she feels big feelings, even towards me, I’ll be there with her. But I won’t give in to her demands because I don’t want to teach her that crying will get her what she wants. I don’t ignore her because then she will feel like her feelings are unimportant to me.

A parent that struggles with the bottom of the circle often is overwhelmed by a child’s big emotions. These parents often never had a safe haven to run to and feel uncomfortable with it because they have no experience with it. As someone who has always repressed my feelings due to the invalidation from my parents, I often struggle to let Salma in when she needs it. I have no idea what to do sometimes because no one has ever done it for me. This one is hard to break. What I do is I hug her and tell her “mommy’s here” and stroke her back until she calms down. Every parent and every child is different so this might not work for everyone, but I recommend exploring different ways to comfort until you find one that feels comfortable for both of you.

When parents struggle with part of the circle, children can sense it and that causes miscues. When a parent struggles with the top of the circle, a child might act like they want comfort and protection when they actually want to explore. When a parent struggles with the bottom of the circle, a child might act like they want to explore when they really just want comfort. I never thought I struggled with the top of the circle until I learned about miscues and I realized that Salma does come to me acting like she needs comfort but she really just wants to play. It hit me that I tend to check out whenever Salma is playing. I am not engaged with her at all and just leaving her to her own devices. Once I realized this, I made an effort to engage with her. We colored together for the first time and she had a lot of fun. She’s also been much better about not miscuing me.

I highly recommend googling the circle of security. The founders of it have tons of free YouTube videos with in-depth lessons on it. Even while you’re healing, it’s important to repair the bond with your child and to help them feel secure so that you can break the cycle. Like I said, no one is perfect and every parent struggles somewhere on the circle. However, what matters is the effort you put in. As long as it’s good enough, your child will feel secure with you.

The Deep Trenches of Depressive Episodes

A large portion of the world is in quarantine with covid-19 wreaking havoc on the human population. Quarantine can be difficult in a lot of ways. For people experiencing a depressive episode, being stuck at home can feel awful. There isn’t any distractions and sometimes the people you live with are your stressors. So what do you do in a crisis? What do you do when you’re having a panic attack?

It’s important to learn your personal signs that you’re in the warning zone. In one of my therapy groups, we talked about the “window of tolerance”, where we identified how we feel when we are in our comfort zone, how we feel when we are in the warning zone, or the “shutters”, and how we feel when we hit the wall. For me, personally, in my comfort zone I am calm, not tense or on edge, and my body is a normal temperature. When I get into my warning zone, which you also may have heard it as fight or flight, I feel hotter and I might sweat. My heart beats really fast and I’m easily startled. I might tremble and feel restless. When I hit the wall, I tend to shut down, dissociate, cry, ruminate, isolate. I feel cold. This is my own window of tolerance signs and everyone is different.

These different phases of a crisis that we go through are activated in different parts of the brain. The only was humans can control their nervous system is through breathing. When you get into that warning zone and you know you’re nearing the wall, that’s when you can most easily stop it. It’s important to know that the advice I’m going to give you isn’t going to take the pain away. The road to recovery requires you to feel your pain. There are ways to make it easier as I will describe, however they won’t completely take it away.

When you’re in the warning zone, this is when you should take action. You can use a weighted blanket or a weighted ball (cheaper than a weighted blanket, I got mine for 5 dollars at 5 below). The pressure gives your brain something to focus on and it can actually feel good. Weight can keep you grounded. Distracting is a great way to bring you back down to your comfort zone. Playing a game, watching TV, browsing the internet are all useful ways to bring you from your warning zone back to your comfort zone. Mindfulness is great! There are guided meditations everywhere online, including on YouTube. Doing a puzzle or coloring, or anything else you enjoy doing that you can stay present while doing it are good ways to distract.

When you’ve already hit the wall, there are still ways to bring you back. Something I was unaware of until I learned about it in group is that daydreaming and getting lost in your thoughts is dissociation. Dissociation is the brain’s way of protecting itself in dangerous situations and can happen when you hit the wall. If you’re someone whose experienced a lot of trauma, especially as a young child, the pathway between comfortable and hitting the wall will be well paved and much smaller. For as long as I can remember, daydreaming has been almost euphoric. It’s been my go-to in any uncomfortable situation. I didn’t even realize I was hitting the wall. I never felt fight or flight because that path was so well paved. So why do you want to stop daydreaming if it keeps you from your situation and it makes your body release endorphins? Because it keeps you from recovery. When you daydream, you fly high off the curve and when you come back from it, you drop steeply back down to comfort. Doing this, you don’t process at all what you’re going through.

Connecting with people is an incredibly powerful tool. If you have hit the wall, connecting is a very good way to bring you back. By connection, I mean genuine vulnerability. Don’t be embarrassed to be vulnerable with others. People respect you more. Everyone is vulnerable inside, and it’s easy to relate to someone who expresses vulnerability. Be honest about what you’re going through.

Intense exercise is another way to bring you back to your comfort zone, or at least the warning zone. Sometimes when you’re having a panic attack and can’t sit still, all you need to do is stand and do jumping jacks or run in place. Another way is temperature. Using ice or a cold pack on your hands, wrists, face, or back of your neck can calm you down.

There is no way to cure the pain. The only way to recover from a trauma is the hard way; feeling it. It’s so hard to feel the pain and accept it. I repressed the pain of my childhood traumas because I convinced myself it was normal. In my brain, I was somehow less than all my classmates. They were better than me and that’s why they didn’t have to experience those things. I know now that I was wrong and that no child in the world deserves what I went through. I was my beautiful daughter’s age when my mother started physically abusing me. I could never imagine hurting my baby girl. Sometimes I cry when she and I bond just because I feel robbed of a mother. I wish that my mother could have loved me the way I love my baby.

But I can’t change the past. That’s why I’m doing trauma work. I’m struggling to accept that it happened and I’m grieving for my child self. When you feel sad or angry or anything in regards to your trauma, just sit with it. Don’t question it or judge it. There are no bad feelings. All feelings are valid and don’t deserve to be pushed away. You feel those things for a reason. You don’t need to wonder why or how or when, or try to make it worse, or try to make it better. Just accept that it is. Focus on the feeling. You might be able to uncover some truth behind it and why it’s there.

Healthy Relationships

Everyone knows the importance of healthy relationships. But how do you distinguish a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one? And how do you know whether it’s an unhealthy person or an unhealthy situation?

Loneliness begins in oneself. It feels like you have no one around you who cares about you, like the world is spinning so fast but you can’t keep up. This kind of loneliness actually stems from a lack of satisfaction in your own body, rather than from others. Of course, humans are social creatures and we need to interact with others in order to survive. However, feeling lonely even in the presence of friends or family often comes from depression. Depression is ugly that way; it forces you to feel so alone even surrounded by people who love you. In your head, they don’t. In your head, you believe that every little thing has a meaning. If someone doesn’t return a phone call or respond to a text message, it feels like they don’t love you anymore. I get into this habit of ruminating, remembering all the times they did return the call or respond to every text. It’s an unhealthy thought process to be in.

A person who has self-compassion and is comfortable in their own skin is able to connect with people when they can, so that they don’t feel alone. Allowing yourself to open up to people who love you is a form of self-compassion. When you choose to phone a loved one to vent and cry and tell them all of your feelings rather than sitting and ruminating on your own, you’re choosing self-compassion. When I say choice, I know it’s very, very difficult to choose self-compassion to the point where you might not even feel like you have that choice. Old habits can be hard to break. It’s even harder when your brain is convincing you no one wants to hear it. In a healthy relationship, people won’t be angry or upset with you for venting. If they are, then they have their own problems to sort out and wasting time on them is pointless while you recover. If you genuinely feel like you have no one to talk to, there are crisis hotlines, walk-in therapy offices, free venting services online. My email is available in my contact page and I’m here as well.

When you come from a traumatic environment, you can feel drawn to unhealthy relationships. When your background is full of people who manipulated and abused you, you’re drawn to it because that’s what you’re used to. I came from a toxic family and was drawn to my ex because, while he wasn’t as bad as my family, he was still familiar. He was manipulative and he gaslighted me frequently. Very early on in our relationship, he convinced me I’m a liar, even though I hadn’t lied about anything and I didn’t even know why he said that. But I believed him.

Another form of unhealthy relationship is the gambling relationship. This person is so kind and sweet to you, exactly what you need from a partner, and then the next second they are completely cold. You feel desperate to get that feeling back. You stick around because the highs are so, so good, like winning the jackpot at a casino. You think if you keep putting in your money, you’ll win again. The truth is, you lose more in the end.

When toxicity is all you know, all you’ve ever been surrounded by, it’s so hard to develop healthy relationships. When I find people that make me happy, I tend to become clingy and smothering because I’m so afraid to be abandoned again. That can actually drive people away. Unhealthy people are often hurting themselves, whether or not they realize it. Unhealthy people are attracted to unhealthy people. Someone afraid of abandonment can become clingy and possessive, or it could be the other extreme, where they will push people away. Either way is unhealthy and stems from past trauma.

So how do you know when you’re developing a healthy relationship with someone? The best advice I can give you is go with your gut. If you’re with someone who doesn’t constantly hurt you, that you feel like you can be yourself around, that is a healthy relationship. In all relationships, there are disagreements. However, there is a huge difference between shouting and berating each other and calmly talking it over. If your friend or partner shouts when they’re upset, that’s a red flag. A response to shouting could be “We can talk about this when we’ve calmed down.” Or, “Why don’t you step outside for a bit and we can talk about it when you come back?” Proceed with caution. If an angry person is prone to violence, I highly recommend ending that relationship. They are an unhealthy person and they need to seek out help. That’s not safe for someone with mental illness to be around.

The opposite side of the spectrum is for you to be conscientious of how you impact the relationship. It certainly isn’t a one-way street and no one is perfect. My unhealthy behaviors I’ve stated above; becoming clingy, possessive, smothering. I also struggle to trust people. I can be clingy and stuck on them and they could tell me they love me and I won’t believe it. Unhealthy behaviors are hard to get out of, especially when they stem from past traumas. If you become angry and shout and insult the other person, take a step back and reevaluate. These are things you can unpack in therapy. Where does your anger come from? Can you get your point across in a calm manner? If you say things you don’t mean while you’re angry, think about how much you love the person. When you aren’t angry, will you regret what you’ve said? How will it impact the other person? I’m not a therapist, nor did I study psychology for longer than a semester in college. However, this kind of anger isn’t healthy in a relationship.

Sometimes you might have a healthy relationship with someone, but they exhibit unhealthy behavior at one point. It’s important to distinguish the difference between an unhealthy person and an unhealthy situation. Like I said, people aren’t perfect and everyone has things they need to heal from or past traumas. People can slip up and exhibit unhealthy behavior. A healthy person will calmly and sincerely apologize, acknowledge their mistake, and make an effort not to make that mistake again. An unhealthy person won’t acknowledge their mistake, or they might feel like they don’t need to apologize.

There is so much more to talk about in terms of unhealthy relationships versus healthy relationships so I will likely make more posts on the topic. Feel free to email me if there’s anything you’re interested in me talking about as well.

Welcome to my blog!

I’m Ghadeer and this is my first official blog post. I’m someone who loves writing and has been doing it since I was a child, so I’d love to be successful in this endeavor.

Motherhood has been a huge change for me, as it is for all first time moms. Going from no children to one child is your life flipping completely upside down. I’m someone who has struggled a lot with mental health issues. Me being a first time mom, married to someone who was mentally and emotionally abusive, and spreading myself way too thin, things ended up coming to a head.

I fell into a deep depressive state but I put on a nice little show for everyone so no one knew but me. At work, they just thought I was lazy. At home, I forced myself to give my daughter what she needs and do what I could around the house. It was never enough for my husband. All that and going to school part time took it’s toll and I ended up in the hospital. I was admitted in-patient to a psych ward. I was lucky and ended up in a good hospital. Minnesota apparently has the best mental health facilities in the USA.

I wasn’t going to work, I wasn’t doing schoolwork, and I wasn’t responsible for meeting my daughter’s needs. My husband came around every day during visiting hours and only told me how hard it was on him for me to be in the hospital. As if it was all my fault. As if I should have just sucked it up and moved on.

Being in that place, I realized how bad he was for me. I wanted to repair it, though. I wanted to change his mind. When I was discharged, I went through two partial hospitalization programs. The first one was a regular one out of the same hospital. I was the only new mom in the group. Everyone else either didn’t have kids or their kids were already grown up. The second one was a lovely mother-baby program. My daughter was too old to bring into the group (<12 months), but I was surrounded by new moms. That was where the real healing happened for me.

I decided to end my relationship with my husband. I needed, and still need, to work on myself. I’m doing a lot of trauma work currently. I wanted to start this blog to talk about mental health and parenting. Being a person who struggles with their own emotions can cause you to struggle with your child’s emotions, which will create a cycle. Let’s break the cycle together.