Not becoming bitter...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by hexemaus2, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. hexemaus2

    hexemaus2 Old hand

    I have a question for you guys - something I could use some suggestions on.

    Over the last year or two, I have had to really become a meanie in terms of the "system." I have realized that in alot of ways, the only way I can get anything done for difficult child 2 is to get ugly with people. I've probably become the most demanding, the most insistant, the most "difficult" Mom to deal with when it comes to the "system." When I see the stupid stuff that goes on, the passing the buck syndrome, I can't help but get angry & it shows when I get to the next moron who tries to pass us off. (The kids joke that when the system fails, I become the "Hulk." difficult child 3 has even told people "Don't make my Mom angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.")

    Now don't get me wrong, I don't get ugly for no good reason. I always start out calm & polite. It's only when the system gets really stupid (like sitting in the police station with EMTs checking my brusied and bloodied son, only to have the folks at juvenile justice refuse to approve arresting difficult child 2 for beating his brother to the point of needing EMTs and a visit to the ER for CAT scans) that I start to get angry and nasty with people. I swear there are some days that I think these people really need a hard bonk on the head to catch a clue.

    What I'm having trouble with is the bitterness all of this battling and fighting leaves behind. My house is a constant war zone with difficult child 2 teetering on the brink of a meltdown more often than not (although he has made some improvements over the last couple of weeks since he started public school, but I don't know how long the honeymoon will last.) Then I have to battle with the system all the time to get him help with this or that, or to get us help with protecting us from difficult child 2 when he does rage.

    I feel like I'm in constant battle mode & I don't like the person I'm becoming as a result. Granted, it doesn't spill out on anything or anyone else yet, but the feeling is always there. I have no patience left with anyone or anything. Everything seems to irritate the crapola out of me. No one else sees it, as I do my darnedest to keep it all in check and not take my frustrations out on anything or anyone that's not warranted. However, I can feel it always eating at my gut. I have to continually remind myself not to get snipey with people, or to go sit in my room and read if I'm too grumpy to be around people.

    I look back at the person I used to be - easy going, nothing really bothered me much, I enjoyed being around other people, and I took whatever hand I got dealt & worked with it to the best of my ability. Now I see this woman in the mirror who I hardly know & don't really like much. She's bitter and angry most of the time - even if only on the inside. She's not a very nice person to be around half the least not if everyone else knew what was going on inside & the constant internal battle just to be a civilized person to others.

    We've been in family counseling for ages, but it hasn't helped me much. I get alot of "well, that's understandable given your situation." Yeah, okay...I already knew that part, thanks for sharing. :hammer:

    therapist then makes the suggestion for me to find a hobby. Yeah, that's gonna work out real well, just as soon as I can get our house to a point where I can safely go to the bathroom without worrying about difficult child 2 nutting up & choking someone while I go pee. How 'bout something for right now & we'll work on a hobby later - when I have the ability pee independently, much less focus on a hobby. The therapist kind of shrugged her shoulders at me in response to that one.

    I'm not against trying medications for anxiety & such, except for the fact that until I have a little more assurance that my house is safe enough, I can't even entertain the idea of anything that might even come close to zoning me out or messing up my system. I have to be at 110% as it is right now to make sure I can deal with difficult child 2 should he go off. I have to have all my wits about me at all times. I can't take a chance that something I might try might make me zombie-ish. Heck, even if it just makes me sick to my stomach (which alot of medications do, thanks to previous non-difficult child-related injuries) that would be enough to keep me from being at my peak to deal with difficult child 2.

    And I don't really think that medications would solve the issues I have at the moment. I don't think it's a medication kind of problem. This is more like life handing me lemons and my face permanently puckering from all the lemonade. These feel more like permanent changes to my personality than depression or anxiety. Like I'm permanently become a bitter, mean person from fighting everything and everyone all the time. I don't want to be that person.

    So, anyone have suggestions on how to keep from becoming this not-so-nice, bitter individual I seem to be becoming? I really don't like her at all. (Although, everyone who knows me keeps saying how much they admire the fact that I'm still such a "nice" or "sweet" person with everything I have going on in my life. If they only knew how not nice, and not sweet I feel most of the time!!)

    I've been dealing with difficult child issues for years without having this bitter, mean feeling all the time. This is a new thing for me & I really don't like it. I realize that it's probably BECAUSE I've been dealing with difficult child issues for so long that I'm getting like this, but that doesn't help me figure out how to undo it. If that even makes sense. I don't want difficult child issues to ruin the person I have always been before. I don't want to be this hateful, bitter, antisocial person I seem to be becoming - even if it is just on the inside - even if it is something no one else sees. I see it. I feel it. And I don't like it.

    I'd love to hear any suggestions you guys have for un-meanie-ing me. I could sure use the help to change my attitude. I know it's a mind set thing. I just need help getting my mind set back to where it was before everything irritated me to death like it does now...before I become a permanent meanie.
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I dont know how you do it. I think I stay on the verge of hysteria most of the time. Big difference is everyone seems to know I am.

    Maybe as time goes on and you see a change...or something happens that is different for you, you will become slightly less bitter.
  3. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I don't have a lot of time so this answer might sound "short"- sorry. I did want to reply because I have felt this way albeit for a little different reasons, for the past year or so. It helps me to take a little time to myself (I know that it's hard to find that time) to regroup and think about trying not to resent difficult child for everything. Yes, a lot of this mess is a result of his poor choices, but a lot of it is due to adequate help not being available- whether that is tdocs who are actually experienced in the types of problems here or whether it is a broken legal system run by people who don't think things through before they make judgements.

    Then- take a vacation. That isn't easy either and obviously can't be done at any time we feel like it. But, plan some family time. In your case, with more than one kid, think about something they might be able to do together without fighting. Or, maybe figure out a way to do something with them individually. I'm sure it seem contradictory to instinct to WANT or PLAN time with them, but at least for us, time away from the system and sd and all other stresses so difficult child can do something fun and I can actually see him smiling and happy really does help. I think it is because we can block the regular problems out for a while and just talk about silly stuff and relax and laugh- try some new experience or something.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2008
  4. DenitaS

    DenitaS New Member

    I wish I had the answer for you!!! You have to know that you are SO STRONG to deal with all that you do ALL the time. I think part of us becoming so strong is us becoming mean as well?? I think we have to to protect that little piece of us that is left. I just always hope that once they move out and I have a little more peace (assuming that happens) that I will be able to find the old me again.
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I know how you feel.
    I build in a vacation every few wks. This time I flew to MN and stayed with-my dad at his retirement home. Doesn't get more peaceful than a bunch of people with-walkers and wheelchairs repeating themselves all the time! The food wasn't half bad, either.
    And sleeping late is a bonus.

    I see on your profile that you are a single mom. (And how dreadful, the circumstances under which your husband was killed.) That complicates it; do you have friends or family who can watch your kids while you go somewhere for a day or two? Luckily, I am still married and can leave my kids with-my husband.

    I do not think that medications will zone you out, as long as you take a very low dose, and, the big one for me, is to always, always, always get tablets, not capsules, because you can bite them in half. You would be surprised how quickly Xananx works, for ex., and it will not zone you out if you bite it in half. (Yes, I've used it.)

    I'd also suggest staggering your kids' schedules so they are not all home at the same time. One could be in baseball, one in an after-school program, etc. I would even stagger their mealtimes if necessary. It sounds like they need to be constantly separated because of their fighting.

    I hope that helps a tiny bit.
  6. hexemaus2

    hexemaus2 Old hand

    Thanks guys for responding.

    I do get to get away every now & then. We have friends and family locally who will split the kids up and take them overnight now & then so I can get away. (boyfriend and I just recently went to Cherokee, NC for the weekend while the kids stayed with friends and family.)

    Periodically, I'll take difficult child 2 and spend the night at boyfriend's house. He has a house in 18 acres. Plenty of room & woods for difficult child 2 to roam on the 4 wheeler, or play a game of pool with boyfriend and I, or go fishing at the pond. We do that once about every week to 10 days. It gives the kids a break from each other and me a break from the constant battles. (Not to mention getting a little down time with my sweetie after difficult child 2 goes to bed!) Since difficult child 1 (16) and difficult child 3 (soon to be 14) are both responsible in terms of taking care of themselves (cooking, cleaning up, taking care of emergencies, etc.) I'm okay with letting them spend the night by themselves once in awhile. (Not to mention, they appreciate having an entire 24 hours of no difficult child 2.) Our next door neighbors check in on them several times while I'm gone, so it works well for us. (Although I'm sure DFCS would make something of it, seeing as how the officers once told me that I couldn't let my 16 year old stay home alone while I spent half the night waiting to get difficult child 2 admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Like I'm supposed to find a sitter for a 16 year old! Please!!)

    I do get a break from time to time - even if the "system" would frown on how we do it. They aren't the ones here dealing with the difficult child battle royale, nor are they doing anything to help, so they can just bite me on that one. lol. (Besides, if difficult child 1 can't manage our house for a night, how in the world is she going to manage a child of her own??)

    My problem is that the negativity and nastiness I feel towards the world in general is even permeating my down time. Even when we got to get away for the entire weekend, I still couldn't shake the "meanie" thinking. I had less patience with hiccups in the trip. I still felt like I needed to stay on guard & ready for issues. I still wanted to tell the woman in line in front of us at the amusement park to just shut her loud, obnoxious mouth before I got a headache.

    I feel like my brain needs a reboot or something to kick start my positive thinking again. Even with breaks and a support system, I still have a bad attitude most of the time. I still have trouble finding the bright spot in much of anything. I mean, I see good stuff, but I still feel grumpy regardless. I may not let it show to others often, but it's right there - just under the surface.

    Yesterday, for example, I got aggravated with the kids. We've all been working on the new house for the last couple of weeks. There's rubble everywhere from tearing down the old walls to rewire. The boys were all playing around and having fun while cleaning up the rubble piles. They weren't really doing anything wrong, just going slow & playing while they worked. For some reason, it just struck me the wrong way & I snapped at everyone to knock off the horsing around, there was too much work to get done for them to play around. difficult child 3 and a friend of his that had come to help both looked at me like I had turned into a monster. Like I had completely lost my mind & they didn't understand. I felt so bad. I didn't mean to snap at everyone, but I did. They were just having fun & I snapped at them for not working fast enough. (They were draggin' tail, but they were still working.)

    I really need to readjust my attitude so I'm not always feeling so bitter and nasty towards everything and everyone. Taking breaks and doing positive stuff with the kids really doesn't seem to be doing the trick any more. I just can't seem to shake feeling so bitter. I'm worried that if I keep letting things get to me, I'll have an even harder time biting my tongue when the grumpies threaten to take over & I'll wind up snapping at everyone alot more.

    I dunno. Maybe I do need to talk to difficult child 2's psychiatrist about medications for me. I just worry about trialing medications on me. There are so many medications I can't take because they either tear up my stomach or I'm allergic to them. Heck, I can't even take the mild pain killers the dentist rxed after my dental surgery last year. Even most over-the-counter stuff (for colds, headaches, etc.) makes me nauseous, makes my heart race, or breaks me out in hives. The idea of trying anything right now just scares the beejeebers out of me. I don't have the time or patience to go through the kind of medication experiments & side effect issues difficult child 2 has gone through just so I don't feel quite so irritable & bitter all the time.

    I keep hoping that maybe the new house will give me a new lease on life kind of feeling. A fresh start for all of us. Maybe we can leave some of the bad memories behind and work on making new, positive memories. Maybe then I'll have a better attitude towards life in general. I hope so. I sure don't like the person I'm becoming.
  7. recovering doormat

    recovering doormat Lapsed CDer

    I think that fact that you are aware of how you come across and aware of how you think your personality is changing is major (may-juh, as Posh Spice, or Victoria Beckham, would say). I think it's a big plus that you are willing to be a thorn in the side of braindead social workers and DCF workers and docs and nurses. I am way too passive and would love to siphon off some of your Warrior Mom mojo.

    So I wouldn't worry too much about you becoming permanently damaged.

    Vacations are very good when you can do it, and so is trying to decrease the amount of time the difficult child's are all together in teh same place. My three teens fight like rabid ferrets at times, and a shrink once told me to put each one in a separate room, with a drink and a snack, to interrupt the aggression and bi***ing cycles.

    What I am worried about is you becoming depressed, since some people manifest depression as irritability. The only non-drug (including alcohol) method I've ever had success with in cooling out is the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi. It makes you not sweat the small stuff, kind of like Valium, but without the fuzzy thinking. It's also easy to learn. Some people likewise swear by yoga. That relaxes and energizes you at the same time.

    I understand why a doctor would suggest getting a hobby. You need to go to your "happy place" and stay there for a while. Easier said than done when you are trying to separate little punk gladiators, answer the phone, and stir the spaghetti at the same time.

    You're gonna need, at the very least, to remember to hide in a safe spot (your car, toilet, garage, church?) and do your deep Lamaze breathing, where you take in a deep, deep breath, hold to a count of four, then exhale twice as long, then repeat at least three times. Try it. You cannot hyperventilate when you are doing your deep yoga breathing. It really calms me down before I choke the living **** out of someone else.

    You, more than anyone else I've read about or talked to lately, have every right to be obnoxious. You've got a lot of stress. But I think it's important to make the effort to see what can be done to help your mood, even if pharmaceuticals are not the answer for you.

    If you haven't already, you might want to check on the nutrition forum about fish oil (essential fatty acids) and 5-HTP, an amino acid. 5-HTP is often used by nutritionists and holistic people for "mood maintenance," and apparently it's so effective that you are not supposed to take it if you are on anti-depressants. Don't know how effective SAM -e and St.John's Wort are.

    Good luck to you, I'll be thinking of you.
  8. house of cards

    house of cards New Member

    There are days when I want to scream, pull all my hair out, stay in bed with the covers over my get the point, but they are just days. Basically I am glad I have every one of my kids, they truly are my world. I don't resent them because they have given me a sense of purpose I didn't have before I brought them into my life.

    I can't describe how empty life was but I know I never want to go back to it...this understated thought is is what I keep in my head on the rough days. I don't know if it will always carry me through, but it has so far.

    I can't begin to understand the stress you must have been through having to fight the people that are there "to help" and I don't know anything about what that does to you, and I'm another that admires that about you. I wish I had more of that(I'm thinking as I write this that I should be careful what I wish for, because I'm sure it took alot of hardships for you to fine tune your warrior mom armor). Wishing you some calm times and better tommorrows.
  9. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    After reading your second post, my advice is to come here and vent often. :)
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's difficult to know where to start.

    A big part of the problem, is you are doing this on your own. You have nobody else to pick up the slack and give you the time you need (even five minutes) to go take a deep breath.

    Otherwise, I relate to the "activist" side too. When I get cranky, I get busy and take action. However, I don't fight every battle. Maybe that is part of why I can switch off.

    It's important, to be an effective advocate, to not be fighting too many battles at once. If taking up a new cause means dropping something halfway through, then you need to think hard. If the one you would have to drop is going nowhere anyhow, then you should have already dropped it. Don't use the new cause as an excuse. If you're never finishing a campaign successfully, this will begin to be your pattern and will prevent you from finishing in the future.

    It's also best to fight battles which are likely to be relevant to your own situation. For example, if you are currently working on getting some action on a schooling issue for your kids, and a neighbour drops in to talk to you about the outrageous behaviour of a new team of developers who are eyeing off the local playground, you need to consider carefully before agreeing to spearhead the "save the playground" campaign. Sometimes you can be quietly involved from the rear, doing a little bit for a one-off task (such as designing a poster to advertise a protest meeting and helping stick the poster up on the local noticeboard). But to take it on when you already are fighting more personal battles is going to divide your loyalties and drain your energies.

    A good rule of thumb - if someone comes to you hoping to get your dander up sufficiently so you will take on another cause, then first ask why THEY aren't taking on the cause themselves. Sometimes a person will get you riled up and taking action, only to find that nobody else cares enough to properly back you up. That is when you can REALLY find yourself getting exhausted and drained by a thankless task.

    In other words, learn to say no. That way, when you DO choose to go for the jugular, your aim will be fast and accurate. And with the throat of a problem well and truly ripped out, the job done, you can sit back and know you have one more success under your belt.

    When it looks like you are going to need to put on your steel-capped boots, again think about it. How important is it? How useful will a good result be? How likely are you to get a good result? How long will it take? How much work is involved?

    Sometimes you might take on a cause knowing your chance of success is minimal, but it will still be a useful start for the next activist to build on. You still need to think and plan.

    A good activist/advocate won't react at every little thing. If you do, you will get nowhere because your energies will be too divided. This will actually make things worse for you - you will be exhausted, you will be very frustrated, and the biggest problem - nothing will be achieved, despite your expense of a great deal of effort.

    For example: you're waiting interminably in the queue to make a simple enquiry. In front of you in the queue is a person who can't keep their papers straight, who seems inclined to discuss the weather, who is in no hurry. Or maybe the person in front of you has asked a particularly complex question which has required calling a supervisor, who has then called another supervisor. You, in your place back in the queue, can see the frustration growing on the faces of all the others in the queue. Behind you is a woman with her grandchild, who is getting fractious. A girl on crutches is behind her - both are standing, both are tired. To sit down would be to lose your place in the queue. Clearly the way the place is organised, is grossly inefficient. By the time you get to the front of the queue, you are angry enough to loudly tell this to the person at the counter.
    That is not good.

    A better option - by the time you get to the front of the queue you notice how frustrated the person at the counter is also. You quickly ask, "I need to direct a letter to your supervisor, I have a few questions I'd like to put in writing. Could you quickly give me the correct name and contact method?"
    Then you go home and draft your letter, making sure you include CONSTRUCTIVE suggestions for streamlining the front desk activities and increasing the efficiency without making it more onerous. You can describe your frustration but don't overdo it. Instead, you present evidence as well as ideas, keep your letter concerned but not offensive or aggressive in any way. Aim your letter to be firm, helpful and make it clear you require a response because you do not want to have to go through a repeat of this unpleasant experience. Keep your letter to less than a page, maybe sleep on it overnight, read through it in the morning, then send it off.

    Once a letter is sent off you put it away in your mind unless the campaign requires further action.

    You also have to keep your hats separate. Your activist hat should NEVER be worn in the presence of your kids. Before you turn to deal with your kids you take the hat off and take a big, deep breath before you put on your parenting hat. Look on the kids as your break from the stupidity of bureaucracy. If you're worrying about a task you've taken on and it's interfering with how you are relating to the kids (or to someone else) and they really don't deserve it, then take yourself off to a quiet corner for a few minutes, do some deep breathing. Maybe if you can write down the thoughts tat are worrying you - maybe it's another argument you want to remember to use in your next letter. Then take that deep breath again and go back to the kids, with a smile on your face.

    If you can't do this well at the moment, you're feeling too frustrated. And this frustration could be due to:

    1) inability to detach. This can be due to your perceived failure to effect change. It can be also due to having too many issues in the "in" tray. Or it can be due to too many failures.

    2) feeling depressed, fed-up, helpless. This can be due to repeated failure to bring about change. You could be biting off more than you can chew, expecting too much too soon. Or expecting to make ANY change in a large bureaucracy. You need to re-evaluate your battles and maybe learn to not take on any battle you aren't certain of winning quickly. Put your advocate L plates back on and don't take on any battles at all, just assess. Delegate, instead.

    Also consider seeing your doctor and discussing your feelings - there could also be a medical reason which needs to be considered.

    It's easy to get angry about stuff. But the wrong sort of anger can slow down your effectiveness at getting things done. If you get angry in a way that loses your cool head, you can lose perspective also. You can become too impulsive and lose sight of the spectrum of issues. You need to be able to see your opponent's point of view in order to be able to circumvent it. If all you can do is see your own viewpoint and you can't anticipate how anyone could think otherwise - then you are angry in the wrong way and will not be able to achieve anything useful today.

    The right sort of anger often isn't anger at all. It's energy, directed intensely. A strong sense of purpose. Use it. While you're feeling energised, draft your letter. Make your phone call. Make sure you take good notes. After each phone call, complete your minutes of that call. Begin drafting any letter you have promised/threatened. Make sure you get the names of any person you speak to, note the time of the call, the name of the organisation, their phone number, what was said. By you, as well as the other person.

    Follow through. If it's a big enough issue to have you wanting to keep chasing people until you get answers, then make sure you do so. Keep your promises, even if they're only to yourself.

    If you find yourself getting fired up on one day, but running out of steam the next - learn to say no to yourself for a while. It's better to not take something on, than to take it on and drop it. I know I've already said this, but it is important enough to keep saying it.

    When you have a success, especially if you did it without being too snaky, then you can feel pleased with yourself. it also increases your chance of succeeding next time.

    But remember - the bulk of this stuff, you're doing FOR your kids. If it makes you too touchy about their behaviour, then stop. It's better to be downtrodden by authorities but on good terms with your kids, than to be fighting everybody.

    I'd like to stick around and go through my answer more carefully before I post, but it's right on midnight and I have a big day ahead, I need my sleep. I have to prioritise too!

    I know I may have not quite got you right - please be aware, any examples I give are purely examples, I'm not saying that this way or that way is how you do things. Just saying that it's how SOMe people do, and it causes problems for them. When I have more time to consider, I'd like to go through this in maybe more specific detail.

    Keep cool - breathe!