Sunday, September 06, 2009

Unholy Trinity

This past week I started doing Bikram yoga. Some people call it 'hot yoga'. It took me nearly a year to decide I would actually try it. You do an extremely challenging yoga routine in a room that has been heated to about 105 degrees. For 90 minutes. I KNOW. I have MS, which some people might know, does not play well with fire. Heat tends to bring on flare-ups and weakness. The more I read about Bikram yoga, though, the more I wanted to try it. I finally decided I'd give it one class, and if it completely slayed me (ie, caused a flare-up), I'd just leave it alone.

I did the class. The class was brutal. Honestly, I'm not sure I've done anything that physically hard before. I think I did about 40 - 50% of the postures. The instructor had told me that my goal should only be to "stay in the room". I did that, and a little more. But man, I did not want to stay in that room. And I was bargaining with myself and God through the whole thing, trying to just keep going. I would rest whenever I got dizzy, or nauseated or just felt too overcome. When I felt I could start again, I would. But when it was over, I felt really, really good. I ran into a couple people I know from other parts of my life. I didn't feel like as much of a fish out of water as I thought I might. About an hour later, I felt a little weak, and ate some lentils while at my friend Paul's house. I really started crashing when I got back home. But then I rebounded and I had more energy that night than I'd had in a while. I can't explain the heat thing. Why doesn't it make me drop to the floor like Woody in "Toy Story"?

I went back the next day. And I did a little better - maybe 50 - 55% of the postures, and I didn't want to leave the room at all. And that day, I felt pretty good for the entire rest of the day. I thought maybe I would do 10 days in a row (they give you an incredible beginner bargain rate for your first two weeks.) Something in me tells me that it is very, very good for me. And especially for, not in spite of, MS. I realized yesterday I wasn't going to be able to do 10 days in a row, not in this lifetime, anyway. Or maybe this part of my lifetime. I have a full life. But I am going to shoot for 3x a week. Until my intuition tells me otherwise. I might have to rename my blog "This Bikram Yoga is Making Me Thirsty".

I think I am consciously fighting the fear surrounding MS. I don't want to let it stop me anymore. In Bikram, they want you to push yourself slightly beyond what is comfortable for you. I only did that to a point. I will keep that appoach. The best thing about yoga for me is that I only have to compete with myself. Some people who do Bikram actually do compete. My instructor was Esak Garcia, who is inspiring, and adorable. He won the instructor championship in 2005. I remember thinking that yoga and competition don't seem to go together, but I got over it in that first class. It's not for me to judge. I just look forward to improving. The times in my life with MS that I have felt my best was when I was exercising and eating very healthily. I'm wanting to embrace that again. I couldn't go to a class today because it was my son's birthday.

So, Paula Poundstone does a bit about her 10-year-old son, 'Thomas E'. She says - her kids are challenging. "I mean, they're lovely, don't get me wrong." But, it's not the same all the time. There's some ups, there's some downs. I wouldn't even trade the downs for anything else. But we got some pretty strong downs." Her son has a problem with tantrums. And it's a big problem. Just nutty, wild tantrums. Very violent, very insane. A couple a day, since he could stand. Except for last winter - he had the flu. He had a 104.6 degree temperature. "Nicest guy you'd ever want to meet.", she says. Everything was "thank you, mom", "please, mom", "I love you, mom" was so hard to call the doctor. She calls the dr - "Is there anyway we could keep him at just like 102?"

"It was so hard to call the doctor." God bless her for making me laugh. I am familiar with that type of child. My son turned 11 today. I recognized that he was dyslexic when he was about 2 (they say you can't, but you can). I couldn't do anything about it really until he was older. I believe his emotional issues are hand-in-hand with his learning disabilities. I've read some supporting documentation on that. Thomas E. sounds a bit more intense than A, but mainly in terms of frequency. As A has gotten older, he's been able to deal with his emotional issues better. But it's still a huge challenge for me a few times a week. Every year there is somewhat of an issue with his birthday - it's always right around Labor Day, so his friends are somehow always gone for the weekend. The party never quite works out. In the past, we've squeaked by with somewhat spontaneous plan B's. This year, he had his mind set on a particular party, with particular people, and a present that we couldn't afford. And my husband and I screwed up by not dealing with everything early enough. Somehow, the summer starts ending, school starts and then "all of a sudden" it's Adrian's birthday. We need to get better at this.

Things didn't go well, and he is upstairs in his room having his 11 year old version of a tantrum. I know, he sounds like a spoiled brat. He isn't. His emotions just overwhelm him and he cannot get it together when a situation is coming down. Ozzie, my babysitter Nina and I attended a workshop years ago on "Explosive Kids", which was the title of a book I'd read. The guy who wrote the book, Ross Green, did the workshop. It was great. It helped us understand the importance of presenting reasonable choices and not boxing A into a corner where he was trapped into a choice he couldn't handle. We all got better at managing A, and he got better at it, too.

Right now, I am finding fault with myself and A, but also with the whole situation around birthdays and holidays. We probably made a mistake by buying into the deal. We celebrate Christmas. There's a mythology that can develop around both birthdays and Christmas "all your dreams will be fulfilled on this day!!!" When your kid is young, it's easy to do it. Their dreams tend to consist of things that you can get at Target. As they get older, there is an adjustment that needs to happen. At some point, the 'dreams' collide with the family budget or the parents' will.

I clearly remember one Christmas when I was younger when I understood that Christmas was not about making my dreams come true. It was right after my parents split up. My dad came over on Christmas, and presents were awkwardly exchanged. One of my gifts was a dictionary (a beautiful full-sized American Heritage dictionary). Now, if someone gave me a dictionary today, I'd be pretty thrilled - I love dictionaries. At that time - I think I was 12, I felt a sense of disappointment. My heart wanted those things I'd dreamily circled in the Sears catalog (yes, I am that old), but that wasn't what I got. "I told her I loved her, she gave me a pen." I look back and think a dictionary was a wonderful thing to get a 12 year old. Perhaps getting a dictionary then has something to do with why I now love dictionaries now. But at that age, at that moment, I couldn't quite appreciate it.

I adjusted my thinking and came to understand that gifts were given by humans, and that expectation management was something I needed to learn. And I did. I think this year is A's year to learn about that. I wish I could have done a better job in realizing sooner what he was thinking. He had a certain thing in his mind (see picture above). We just aren't equipped to spend $800 on a motorbike, or to get him and us involved in that particular lifestyle quite yet.

I know this will pass. His tantrum will end. I will know when it is time to go up and try and comfort him. But there is something deeper gnawing at me.

I have struggled with rage issues for quite a long time. The earliest I remember it was about the age of 19, shortly after my major issues with recurrent depression began. It took me completely by surprise. It had never happened to me while growing up, that I can remember. I was shocked by the depth of it. It flared up again when I moved to Colorado with my then-friend Scott. Literally on the drive out to Colorado, from New Jersey. I was, off-and-on, out of control and started getting help from a shrink who prescribed meds. I was off of them for quite a while because of pregnancies. After a series of miscarriages, I finally had my daughter Dagny. And along with her birth, the rage came raging back, if you will. I learned (personally from Harville Hendrix, while on Oprah, no less. I like going right to the source. And to have it be televised.) about how to have productive and validating conversations in relationships, both with my kids and my husband.

Long story short, I have been off and mostly on SSRI's (mainly Prozac) since my son was born. My concern is that A has inherited whatever the hell it is that fucks me up as well. I really don't understand my own issues - how much is biochemical? How much is childhood crap? Don't know for sure. I guess I'm able to help him work with his. Maybe if he gets a head start, he won't need to use the drugs. I'd certainly rather not. After a few years of various neurological medical people that I work with imploring me to try Wellbutrin instead of Prozac, I started making the switch. A few weeks into it, I was shocked to find out I had a sex drive. But with the return of my sex drive came the return of my rage. As I figured, I am going to need to go back to an expert to help me manage the transition, if it happens at all. I really want to figure this out. I'm feeling panicked about turning 50 and having some unturned stones.

I ended up going upstairs at a certain point last night and spent about an hour and a half with him. Through the grace of God, Harville, and Bikram yoga, we made it through an extremely painful process. I prayed, I harvilled, and I silently renewed my strength. He threw things, he banged his fists, and he cried as loud as I've ever heard him. At one point when I was holding him while he was screaming, my mind was telling me "I cannot do this anymore, I don't have the strength". But I remembered the yoga class. And my other little voice said "Yes, yes, you can do this." In the end, Ozzie and I (formerly my then-friend Scott) were able to redeem ourselves and put A's birthday back together again. All the king's horses....

I give A huge props for working through it. After it was all over, before he went to bed, he told me "Mom, thank you for helping me work through everything." Wow. What was interesting was that he wasn't upset about the thing I thought he was. I finally understood what it was that he'd wanted, and we were able to work out a solution. As we went through it, I thought of all the ways it could be going horribly wrong. How I could be yelling and screaming back, and threatening and punishing. I silently thanked the universe for conspiring to help me.

Prozac, Harville and Bikram - my personal unholy trinity.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Wow. That's a lot to digest.
I would encourage you to look deeper into your own 'rage issues' Trish. You might not fix them to your satisfaction, but taking a shot at it will probably lessen your anxiety and guilt over Adrian's. I went through a similar process last year dealing with on of our kids' depression and facing up to my own 'old stones' in the process. It has been brutally difficult, but worth the effort on the other side.