Why Parents Don’t Sleep…Wetting the Bed and Monsters in the Closets.

It was about 12:36 AM when I stood in the boys room trying not to scream. Not succeeding very well. I had tried to rationalize. I tried cuddling. I was now at the state of speaking loudly, “There are NO MONSTERS in this house! There is just me, you, Mommy, and Jackson and we are all trying to sleep and it’s not fair that you are keeping us ALL awake! I’m tired! Stop.”

With tears brimming in my eyes he finally seemed to realize that I was tired and there were in fact no monsters.

The boys were never good sleepers. I got to the point where I wanted to throat punch anyone who asked me or stated to me “They still aren’t sleeping through the night?! Did you try….” because the answer was always no. They aren’t sleeping through the night. Yes I tried that. I tried every damn sleep remedy you can imagine.

Three and a half, nearly four years later, the nights are slightly improved.

There are more full night sleeps. Which almost makes the interrupted nights harder. Now it’s not that they want to nurse. It’s that they peed the bed. This week it was one night of peeing the bed and the following night of waking up screaming because there are clearly monsters in our house.

Now if I peed the bed I would want it changed silently and then I would want to immediately crawl back into bed. When one of the boys pees the bed, it’s a freaking scene. There is inevitably some piece of blanket or animal that gets wet that has to be washed which causes the epic meltdown which means we are now all fully awake.

It’s not an easy clean-up and back to sleep. It’s a clean-up of hell followed by more screaming hell. Followed by all of us eventually back in our own beds wide awake. Then the cat who is now frazzled and annoyed starts meowing and making a scene because she was disturbed.

Then the monsters. They literally watch PJMasks and Dino Dana. Nothing scary. No monsters. I mean minus the dinosaurs, but they are generally not scary.

But my son wakes up with complete confidence that there are monsters in our house and it takes me losing my damn mind to convince him otherwise. The lights are already on. The closets are checked. They sleep with the hallway light and the light in the bathroom on. Tonight I added an Elsa nightlight. It actually projects Elsa onto the ceiling. He seems obsessed with it and I told him it will keep all monsters away.

Fingers crossed.

At some point they will sleep through the night. At some point I will sleep through the night. I can’t tell you when that will be. I can tell you that if a parent tells you they were up overnight don’t ask why the kid isn’t sleeping through the night. Trust me if there was a magical cure that didn’t involve us all melting down at 1 AM about pee on the sheets or the freaking cat meowing or the monsters…I’d be all over that.

And yes. We limit fluids before bedtime for two hours. Try keeping that boy away from the faucet though. He steals cups from his toy kitchen and sneaks into the bathroom and drinks water. Then when he pees the bed and is screaming because we have to wash the towel he’s snuggling with- he wants a cup of water because the crying “makes my mouth hurt and I need water!” So yeah. The struggle is real.

I’ve had many people say, “Just enjoy being up with them at night and all the snuggles because these days pass too quickly,” or some equally quaint saying. I also want to throat punch those people. The days may pass quickly but the nights are torturously bad and long. I don’t know what kind of stuff happened with their kids at 1 AM but with mine, we are not quickly and quietly snuggling then drifting back off into a peaceful slumber.

We are more like a massive cat fight where there is chaos, screaming, urine scented, and at the end we all retreat attempting to lick out wounds before passing out.

I will never miss the chaotic middle of the night scenes. Nor will I miss the epic hangover feeling the next morning but without any fun drunken memories just a hazy recall of reasoning with a three year old about there being no monsters in the house. I won’t miss the dread with which I approach sleep the subsequent nights knowing my slumber could be interrupted at any moment by screams from pee and monsters.

Instead at some point, some night, I will realize I have slept through the night. Many nights in a row. And then I will do a fist pump and think sweet. I survived.

 

*** My business partner has twins. She told me when they were newborns that I wouldn’t get any sleep until they hit at least six or seven. She apparently wasn’t wrong. To all the twin mom’s out there. Hang in there. Six or seven years….we got this. I’m almost to year four…

 

Explaining Death to Three Year Olds.

When I called my wife around 1:30 on Tuesday she knew something was wrong. She knew I was supposed to get my first allergy shot at 1:15 and that I generally don’t call unless something is wrong.

After about sixty seconds from the time of the allergy shots- there were three- my throat started to close. It’s an odd feeling, not totally like my throat was closing, more like it gets tight and so itchy that I want to stick a coat hanger down it.

The nurse was pretty calm, though she later told me I gave her some gray hairs, as she told me I was having an anaphylactic reaction and they needed to give me epinephrine. The allergist came in, he’s also one of my favorite doctor’s, and also calmly explained what was happening as I was injected with epinephrine. My throat opened up, and then they gave me benardryl and told me to call some one.

I had to get a second shot of epinephrine about thirty minutes later because the whole throat closing thing started again. In the middle of it I was surprised and at first, not anxious. But then as I realized what happened and remembered all of the cases of anaphylaxis in the emergency department I took care of, I started picturing the worst.

Three days earlier I threw out my back. So I was also uncomfortable.

The next day I went to work. My arms hurt from the shots, and I had started wheezing the previous night leading us to wake up at 2 AM to make sure I didn’t miss a Benadryl dose and albuterol. Then I went to work. Being my own boss, knowing I’m taking three days off next week, I don’t get PTO. I saw patients with a sore back and sore arms, wheezing, and hoping the anaphylaxis was going away.

That was last night. I stayed at the office until after seven, catching up on paperwork and billing after seeing thirteen clients.

I came home but eight, to my wife saying the boys wanted to say goodnight. I dragged myself upstairs, and fell into bed with my Jackson. He told me all about his day. Declan chiming in at times from his bed. Then Declan asked about going away on Sunday. “We goin to Hampshire?” “Yes baby, we are going to New Hampshire,” “With Gramma?” “yes baby with Gramma,” “Mama!” “What baby?” “We forgot Poppy!”

I was half asleep, feeling like I got hit by a truck, and my son chooses to bring up my Dad. He died in April. We went to New Hampshire together as a family every year. This will be the first time for us up there without him.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Poppy going to come down from the sky to Hampshire?”

At this point I had tears in my eyes, “No baby, he’s not,”

“Aww, Mama, then he won’t give me a hug and a kiss. I wanna hug Poppy,” he said “I want him to meet Hediz and give him a hug too,” (a friend at daycare).

Now I’m openly crying, and I choke out, “I miss his hugs too baby. I wish I could hug him too. But it doesn’t work that way. He’s never coming back from the sky, he’s an angel up there now baby.” He looked disappointed but accepted this. Jackson sat up and gave me a hug. Then I kissed them both goodnight and walked out of their room.

I walked downstairs sobbing and tried to explain to my wife what just happened.

The thing about parenting is that I am never prepared for those moments. I had a shitty week. It was only Wednesday! I was ready to fall into my bed and sleep. Instead I was caught off guard by a random thought from my son about my Dad. They go weeks without mentioning Poppy. Then the night that I am feeling physically and emotionally beat is the night I have to further explain that he is actually permanently gone. It’s the night I have to think about his hugs, and how much I miss them.

It’s been six months since he died. I dread each day because I think about him every day. But I look forward to each day because it’s one more day we make it through since he died. I keep waiting for the day it gets easier. So far it’s not here yet.

Within a twenty four hour period I was recovering with my back, I had an anaphylaxis reaction so bad I required two epi-pen’s, I saw thirteen clients at my practice and saw six patient’s inpatient at the hospital, I fought with Anthem, shocker, and I explained death to my three year old twins. Again.

The whole adulting thing is overrated.

Parenting makes me appreciate and admire all parents. We all have these moments. These five second moments that make up our day that bend us, touch us, torture us, because our kids are innocently enquiring about something that can be incredibly triggering for us.

I don’t get days off or time outs as much as I crave them.

Tonight we made cookies and doughnuts (I bake them) and butternut squash Chile. I did three loads of laundry, and I tried not to think about the packing I haven’t done for New Hampshire yet. But we didn’t talk about my dead Dad and they fell asleep without screaming. I’ve had about an hour to watch The Office, write a blog post, and fold all three loads of laundry.

At some point this week will be over. I likely won’t remember that my back was thrown out or the emotional toll of my clients this week.

But I will remember my son asking me if Poppy can come down from the sky to hug and kiss him. Because it’s something I wish with all my being could be a reality.

 

Transphobia and Homophobia and Excuses.

Recently a client told me a story of them walking in a grocery store and being approached by a random woman who simply stated, “Why don’t you just be the (gender) you were born to be?” My client is trans.

My client is good natured and did not respond, just smiled and wished them a nice day and walked away. They relayed it to me with good humor and no malice. “They were older, they were of a different generation,” all the excuses they could give for that woman they did.

But it rubbed me wrong. I am very protective of my Queer clients and frankly it pissed me off. I’m sick of the excuses allowed for people who are homophobic and transphobic. Just because you are of a “different generation” does not provide allowances for being hateful and discriminatory.

I come back to my Nana. She was 90! She accepted her two gay granddaughters and our kids. She accepted her Queer niece without question. She was born in the 1920’s and she was clearly of a different generation. But she loved her family and would not do anything to hurt us.

“Yes but she was so lovely and kind,” I can hear it now…the excuses. Why my Nana could be accepting and tolerant and others can’t be. I don’t want to hear it. I’m sick of hearing it. I’m sick of the hate being excusable based on your age, religion, or ethnicity.

There are no acceptable excuses for homophobia and transphobia. None. Not one.

I’m part of a lesbian moms group and a frequent topic of conversation is “What do you say when some one asks you about how you had your kids?” or “How do you respond when some one asks ‘who is the real mom'”? People generally are kind in these responses. I am less so. I am sick of being kind in the face of ignorance and malice.

As a minority do you have any idea how exhausting it is to be the one to take the high road? But then if we respond with any type of anger or sarcasm we are “bitchy or PMS-ing or giving lesbians a bad name” or whatever.

I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing story after story of people being fired from their jobs for being Queer (YES it happens and is legal in most states). I’m tired of feeling like I should be kind when people ask me intimate questions about how my kids were conceived. Because honestly what happened with my vagina, cervix and uterus is none of your business.

I’m tired of trying to engage conservative websites and pages by asking questions in a non-confrontational and non-insulting way (but bringing to the surface hatred and discrimination) and instead of having a dialogue with me being blocked. How can we create change if the conservative right won’t even have a dialogue with an individual on the left? I don’t understand! They call us snowflakes yet they cannot even bother to answer my questions. They just block me. To date roughly ten facebook pages and blog pages have blocked me. After not once answering my questions. But I’m the snowflake. Eyeroll.

I’m tired of hearing about the homophobic administration and all their bullshit.

What keeps me going? The Queer youth. The trans kids I meet who are brave enough to transition in this awful climate of transphobia where WE are DYING. Suicide and Homicide are taking us. Yet my trans clients persist. They wake up and face each day with an inner strength and fortitude that I am consistently awed by.

The Queer youth who are gay and lesbians and bisexual who fear coming out to their parents and friends but who do it anyway because they are not snowflakes. They are the strongest people I know.

I’m tired yet I persist because the Queer community persists. Because even in the darkest of times all you need to do is turn on the light. (Albus Dumbledore)

If you are old it’s not an excuse. If you are young it’s not an excuse. If you are religious it’s not an excuse. There is no excuse for discrimination, intolerance, and hatred. Cowards hide behind age and religion. True strength lies in every Queer youth waking up to live another day in this state of adversity. Rock on. 

And to the old lady in the grocery store. Come see me. I’m happy to explain why they are not the gender they were “born” to be with a full bibliography of references. Also: stop going up to random people you don’t know and feel it’s okay to make statements and judgments to them about their gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s not nice, it’s wrong on many levels, and could be considered harassment which is illegal. Just stop.

Otherwise I feel it may be my duty to start going up to random old women making transphobic statements asking “Why are you not being the kind loving person you were born to be?” 

Tumbling Class With Twins.

I am lucky to be related to some one who owns a dance studio. We enrolled the boys in tumbling.

They actually sat and watched my niece’s entire recital last May. When I asked them if they would want to do the tumbling class, like “those kids on the mats on the stage,” they started doing somersaults and were an enthusiastic yes.

I watched them smiling go into the studio with their instructor and I sat on a bench in between two women I went to high school with. I say high school. But in a small town (graduating class of 150) with very little movement in and out…we knew each other probably from the age of 5-ish.

They were actually two girls on softball, basket-ball, and soccer teams with me and each other at various times throughout our entire childhood. I wouldn’t say we were close friends, but we were close in a way that people who grow up in a small town playing sports with each were. We saw each other sweat, cry, and bleed over the years of playing sports together.

Their parents coached me at times and at other times my parents coached them. We gave each other rides and we knew each others strengths, and weaknesses. It’s hard to describe the bond of a small town. It’s like this connection that we all wish we didn’t have yet can’t possibly imagine living without. Or maybe that’s just me?!

Anyway. There we sat. It was surreal. We were all watching our kids on monitors. My sons and one of their sons were in tumbling together, and on another screen was the other one’s daughter in ballet class. We were relaxed in the way that people who know each other from the age of 5 can be.

“When did we become the Mom’s?” I asked as I sipped my coffee from my travel mug. We all leaned back against the wall staring straight ahead at the screens.

“And at dance class?!” one of them said in bewilderment and mild disgust.

“With boys no less,” I added laughing.

We were all female athletes. Now I danced for eleven years. So I didn’t think it was weird being at dance class. Well maybe…considering I have two sons.

But the girls I was with, and then in walked my sister, also a female jock, concurred. None of them could have imagined the pink sequined girls they bore. We all laughed and then sat back again and with a few questions and answers we were caught up on the last twenty years.

I sat there between those two thinking this is the most surreal moment. Watching our kids in dance class. Twenty years after we had played all the sports together with our moms and dads on the sidelines.

I generally have mixed feelings about living within twenty-five minutes of the very small town I grew up in. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. That moment though. Was cool. I’m glad I could share my bewilderment at the how the hell did we get here with people who get it because not only did they experience it themselves, but we experienced it together.

The older I get the more I realize how precious it is to have people in my life who knew me before kids. Before mental health nursing, before nursing in general. People who knew my Dad. People who knew me as a kid. Not just because I was younger but because it’s a part of my narrative that is important. Now more than ever after the loss of my dad.

It’s important that I know people who know I have a wife. Who know my sister has a wife. Who’ve known my sister was gay since high school. Who don’t care. Who have still maintained relationships with my sister and I regardless of the gender of our spouses.

These people are important to me. So when I said good-bye and one of them said, “See you next week!” with a smile…I smiled back. It felt like huh oh yeah, I’ll see you every week now, just like before when we were on teams together. It felt normal. It felt like the last twenty years hadn’t even happened and we should bring a soccer ball and kick it around outside while the kids are in tumbling.

I might do that. Keep an eye out for that blog post. They would probably kick my ass.

Small town suburbia has pro’s and con’s. Pro: people know you. Con: people really know you. As I get older I appreciate the pro’s more than the con’s. I appreciate the connection with people. I appreciate that they knew my dad before dementia took him. I appreciate that they knew me before I became wife/Mama.

I appreciate that they don’t judge me because we all know all each other’s stuff from growing up together. We all just know.

 

 

 

**** The pic is the boys with one of our cats, Maddy. Maddy loves the boys. She is 17 and she lets them torture her daily while she purrs.

 

 

Working in Mental Health Must be Crazy.

I generally don’t tell people my profession right away. If they ask what I do I say “I’m a nurse,” that’s usually enough. If they ask further I say I work in mental health. If they ask further I say “I own my own practice.” I try to keep it short and simple.

People’s general response is “Wow that must be crazy,” or they ask what kind of people I treat, like the people I treat are some sort of sideshow freak. I always respond that I treat many different people. Again to just close the subject.

A couple reasons: I don’t think discussing my work is appropriate in most situations. All of what I am told is confidential and protected. I work hard to protect my client’s privacy. Basically any discussion about them could be perceived as disclosing too much.

I don’t know what everyone’s story is. I could say that I treat a lot of sexual assault victims, and trigger the person I’m talking to who may be a survivor of sexual assault.

I don’t want to hear about everyone’s story. If I’m at the grocery store or at the gym I don’t want to know your mental health history. I just want to exist in the world in that moment without bearing other people’s shit.

So yes. I can be rather closed off about my profession. Not because I’m not proud of it and the work I do. Because I am. I love my work. I love that it’s unpredictable. I love that my long term clients trust me and look forward to seeing me. I love getting referrals from my clients because I know they trust me to see their friends and family.

It’s like parenting. The days are long but the years are short. I have some long ass days. Days I want to cry, scream, and everything else. I hate insurance companies. I hate that they dictate care and reimburse crap. I hate chasing people for money and/or getting screwed and never paid. Because it is my livelihood and it pays my mortgage.

I started keeping a video diary at the end of my days.

Yeah as soon as I figure out how to upgrade my plan that’s happening. I was watching some of them tonight and it’s hilarious. Also sad.

Here’s my point to this rambling blog post. I love working in mental health. It is fucking nuts some days. I’ve had knives drawn in my office. I’ve held people as they cried. I’ve been screamed at, sworn at, quietly glared down, and mildly stalked (yes there are levels). I’ve also been the first one to know about a pregnancy. The first one to know about a marriage proposal. The first one who a person comes out to about their sexuality or gender identity. I’ve watched people literally transition from one gender to another and everywhere in between. I’ve forged relationships with clients who have a deep mistrust of mental health practitioners and I’ve discharged clients and been fired by clients.

I’ve seen people through marriages, divorces, children, high school, college, and first jobs. What’s crazy is not my work. It’s not my clients. What’s crazy is the stigma that still exists around mental healthcare.

What’s crazy is not my clients. 

My clients constantly amaze me. People who make generalizations about mental healthcare do not understand that nothing separates them from my clients. Nothing. I’ve treated the poor, the rich, the middle class, white, Black, gay, straight, old, young, and everything in between.

The need for therapy or psychiatric medication doesn’t make some one crazy.

Denial that one is in need of therapy and/or psychiatric medication defines crazy.

To all my clients and everyone courageous enough to seek mental health treatment for yourselves I see you. I admire you. I don’t think you are crazy. I think you are some of the bravest people I know.

 

 

 

 

Twins First Haircut…And Homophobia

Brought my sons to the barber for the first time. Up to now it’s been me pinning Jackson to floor attempting to do a fade up the side of his head. Usually it all ends up shaved off because he moves so much and screams and cries.

I’ve had my sister do it, but I still have to hold him down, and he still screams. My wife and I talked and we thought he’d be better behaved in an actual barbershop. With men. Because like it or not that boy is drawn to men.

Figures he got stuck with two Moms. Declan could care less. About his hair being cut, men, women, etc. That makes him sound like the easy child. He’s not.

So I went to a barbershop in a town nearby. It was walk in only and I called ahead to make sure they were good with twin toddlers. We walked in and there were two rather large and bulky barbers and a shop full of men either getting cut or waiting for their turn.

The owner turned on the big screen mounted up on a wall and went to Starz. Of course Declan saw Frozen and said “Elsa Mama!” The barber laughed and we settled on Toy Story 3. Clearly Frozen was too girly for the manly barbershop.

As we sat and waited I took in our surroundings. American flag. Normal. Sign saying “Here we say Merry Christmas, we stand for the Anthem, etc.” and then I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. We were not on safe ground.

Americana and patriotic stuff is fine. Right winged signs about being Christian with no understanding of white privilege and the whole kneeling for Anthem situation…yeah I was guessing lesbians wouldn’t be welcomed.

It was my wife’s birthday. She wasn’t there with us though. She was working.

The boys are super empathic. I was trying to act normal but looking back I realize I was being more talkative and overly friendly. Sharing that I am a nurse.

I like to win people over before my boys start talking about their two mom’s. The barber was an EMT married to a nurse. Score. Then the birthday was mentioned. My boys were super excited to celebrate my wife’s birthday that night.

They talked all about Mommy’s birthday. The barber’s both said “Happy Birthday” to me. Because that’s what cis-het-males do. They assume every one is like them.

I didn’t correct them. And though I know the boys understood everything. For the first time in their little lives they didn’t correct them either. They just listened as I was wished Happy Birthday. They always correct people.

“She not Mommy. She Mama!” is a phrase I hear daily. “We have TWO Mommy’s” is another one.

But they didn’t this time. Writing this I have tears brimming in my eyes.

I didn’t feel anything at the time except anxiety. Fear. But I had a smile plastered on my face and was chatting. I never chat. Declan looked at me when I said “Thanks” to them as they wished me a Happy Birthday. But for once in their three and a half years of talk talk talk they did not correct them.

The barbers brought up the birthday at least three times. Each time acting as though it were mine. I never corrected them and neither did the boys.

They are too young to have an actual discussion about what happened in there. They were both just proud of themselves for sitting still and not crying. But they knew.

Somewhere in their little brains they knew. Mama is scared and we are not going to talk about Mommy.

I will never know if the barber’s are supporters of #45. I will never know if they are accepting of two mom families. I likely won’t go back even though they treated the boys wonderfully.

I should have been excited and happy to be getting their hair cut for the first time. But I was scared. I felt distinctly unwelcome and that I had to hide who my family is in order to remain safe.

I may have been wrong. But when I walked to my car there was a truck with a confederate flag hanging off the sides.

A liberal left swinging person may have noticed the signs hanging on the walls. They may have thought a quick thought about not discussing politics. But if they were heterosexual/cisgender/white that’s likely all that would have gone through their head.

For a minority woman who is not heterosexual every worst case scenario went through my head. From simply being kicked out to being harassed or assaulted.

I felt the instinct to befriend them so that if the boys did let on that we were a two mom family they might like me by that point and not be too harsh. My kids, for possibly the first time, noticed that I was distinctly uncomfortable. And didn’t discuss Mommy at all.

This is not the future I want for them. Yet in our current climate this is my family’s reality. Check your privilege. Because you have it if you are cis and heterosexual.

And if you own a business…I’m cool with the whole Republican dogma being your political system.

I’m not cool with homophobia and intolerance. So maybe throw up an equality sticker next to your American flag so I can relax. And so my children can know their Mama is relaxed. That this place is safe. That we can be ourselves here. Because to feel distinctly unsafe…that is called walking in the shoes of a minority in a country where we are devalued and discriminated against on the regular.

Why we can’t be friends and it’s not “Just Politics”

I’m going to say it again for the people in the back.

If you voted for #45 we are not friends.

There are a few reasons for this.

  1. You may have noticed I’m married to a woman. By voting for #45 you voted knowingly for possibly the most homophobic administration in modern times. Example: 2004 Mike Pence voted AGAINST the employment non-discrimination act. 2014: Supported and lobbied for a bill adding a ban of gay marriage to the constitution of Indiana. 2012: He refused to go on record stating he would support a child be raised by a homosexual couple. 2010 he voted against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He spoke in 2018 (the first sitting VP to do so) at Values Voter Summit which has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This Summit had speakers who believe being transgender is a sin, and who preach for conversion therapy. Trump banned transgender individuals from the military. In a tweet.
    1. Within two HOURS of #45 taking office all mention of the LGBTQ community was removed from the white house website.
    2. They have nominated two of the most anti-LGBTQ justices to serve on the Supreme Court.
  2. I am a woman. Also hoping you’ve noticed this. See here and here for how I feel about this.
  3. I am a small business owner. And no. Not one portion of his tax laws helped small businesses. It helped large corporations.
  4. I am a mental health nurse practitioner. See here.
  5. I am the descendant of immigrants. And for Christ’s sake. He’s married to one.
  6. I don’t believe that sexual assault should be normalized. I don’t believe we should have a sitting president who doesn’t believe in climate change. I believe in an educated America.
  7. I am pro-cop. That may be the only spot we agree on.
  8. I am not pro-guns. In fact I think they should be banned. All of them.
  9. I am not ashamed if you call me a snowflake. Because it only takes one snowflake to start an avalanche.

This does not mean I won’t be friendly. I will. Most likely. But that does not mean we are friends.

Because you have managed to put in office people who can and want to do damage to my family. They want to strip anti-discrimination laws from our books. That is not okay with me. I am a minority. I can now be discriminated against more freely, more openly, and that jeopardizes my safety but more importantly it jeopardizes the safety of my children.

I may have been able to look past this before kids. But I can’t now. Because they are my everything and when some one messes with them, even indirectly, I can’t move past it.

I know who you are. I know by the way you maybe avert your eyes when I make an anti-#45 statement. I know because you post memes about every one getting along in the wake of a horrible election. I know because you whine about “But I didn’t like Obama, so you should be fine too…”

Obama was never trying to strip rights from any one. He was trying to expand them.

#45 is trying to strip the rights of my immediate family and my extended Queer family. He is trying to normalize discrimination and hate.

I know you. I see you. And no. The meme’s won’t work. Unapologetically no. This goes beyond politics. Politics shape policies and laws. Laws are used as weapons against minorities. I am a minority. You have endangered me and mine. Own it.

 

How Public Education Fails Smart Kids.

When I was in fifth grade classes were not leveled yet. I was frustrated with lessons. We learned the lesson in the first five minutes. The next thirty were spent re-explaining it. I would frequently go ahead in the lesson and finish our worksheets before we were supposed to.

Throughout elementary and middle school I frequently got into trouble by teachers for “going ahead” “not staying with the class” and one time when I asked why we had to do what seemed like an extra step to me my fifth grade teacher responded rather condescendingly, “Well I guess you don’t because you’re advanced. But the rest of the class does.”

I learned then to shut my mouth and keep my head down.

Then I got in trouble for reading chapter books that were far ahead of my grade level and age during lessons. I was bored out of my freaking mind. So I brought books to school. My teacher stopped pointing it out though because every time she asked me a question about the lesson I was reading through…I knew the answer. I irritated her by consistently getting 100’s on quizzes and tests even though it appeared I never paid attention.

I did. For five minutes. Then I zoned out and read.

I remained bored out of my ever-loving mind until high school when all the classes were finally leveled. Middle school english and math were leveled. I was challenged in math. That was it. I actually looked forward to those forty minutes of my day. They were the only forty minutes I wasn’t guaranteed an A.

I have vague memories of a gifted program in fifth and maybe sixth grade. Where we went on a couple trips to random places. I don’t remember how that impacted my boredom in class daily. I don’t think it did.

The two rubik’s cube in the picture…a child under the age of eleven put those together in my office recently in under two minutes. Both of them. In under two minutes. While casually chatting with me and listening to me and their mom talk. Then they explained why it took two minutes because one had been severely out of place so it took longer to straighten out. They asked if I wouldn’t mind keeping them away from other children who may mess them up again until our next visit.

I asked what the IQ was and if it had ever been tested. Rough estimate 142.

But there they were in my office. Overmedicated and misdiagnosed. Because they were bored out of their freaking mind in school.

I have a handful of these kids on my caseload. Behavioral issues at school, maybe at home too, labeled and medicated as ADHD. But upon further investigation their grades are generally A’s or their in school quizzes and tests are 100’s but they don’t do homework so they have C’s.

I’ve consistently asked parents what services the school is providing for their gifted child; to be told nothing. The school is providing no services in terms of providing more academically challenging materials or specialized lessons for the child. They recommended a medication evaluation and behavioral modification.

Schools are not equipped for smart kids. Not until high school. And by then we’ve been through nine years of boring school. The spark may have gone out. The love of learning and being labeled difficult because we are bored may be too much to overcome.

The potential of these children is remarkable and it’s being horribly wasted.

Sometimes they need medication. Not usually for ADHD. Schools don’t love calls from me. Because I will not medicate a child because they are smart. I challenge our education system to educate them because they are smart. Make an online individualized learning plan with harder and more advanced academics. Purchase one. They are out there. I’ve looked.

Invest money in intelligence not just in learning disabled children. These kids are our future and we stifle intelligence into a box of mainstream classes. We shame them in front of their peers for being smart. We would rather ship them off to a psychiatrist for medication than meet them where they are at with their IQs of 142. Or we would rather them quietly sit reading in the back so as not to disrupt the rest of the class.

We are putting out their lights instead of igniting them. The public school system in America should be ashamed at their lack of investment in intelligence. There should be as much invested in smart kids as there is invested in those with disabilities.

I was accepted early into NYU for my undergrad. I ended up transferring out because of the cost and I wanted to switch my major. But I left there with a 4.0. I went to Yale for my graduate degree. I graduated Yale with a 3.7. I didn’t let that fifth grade teacher shame me out of advancing myself. But I remember that moment of being shamed for being smart.

How many other moments are there of teachers shaming intelligence? How many of them don’t recover? How many of them don’t make it through? Even one is too many and that is the shame of our education system.

I get it. Twenty-five kids. All different levels of learning. You have to make sure every kid gets it. Teachers in un-leveled classes don’t have time to individualize learning plans for the one or two gifted student in their class. That’s where there should be a standardized program for kids who perform beyond. Something that can be done with minimal instruction, an online program.

This would foster independence, it wouldn’t disrupt the class and wouldn’t require excessive extra teacher time.

Just as the special education program is designed for students who need extra support there should be a special education for intelligent kids who perform beyond their grade level.

I hope one day this can be a reality. Because until then….schools still aren’t going to like hearing from me.

Friendship & New Moms.

Right before I got pregnant four of my very close friends moved out of state. All to different states. They were all people I hung out with regularly and none of them have children at this point, and were not planning to when I got pregnant.

Then I had the worst pregnancy ever and puked every day literally for nine months. So not much socializing then. It was incredibly isolating actually. I had previously been spending at least weekly visits with my niece and sister and sister-in-law and hanging out with friends and then bam. Puking. Never could leave the house and just trying to survive my work days.

Then I had twins. Bam. Trust me no one lines up to offer to take care of twins. As infants and as toddlers we’ve heard crickets when looking around for any extra help. Which is fine in some ways because I don’t regret any time I spend with my sons. And when we’ve really been in a jam my family has definitely pulled through for us.

I worked very hard to grow them. I never want to feel any resentment toward them. And I don’t. I just feel sort of a loss.

The loss of a social life. And also the loss of regular visits and time with my niece and extended family. Because the boys are a lot. They are energetic, they are stubborn, and they have no fear. All very bad combinations. Three and a half year old twin boys. Yup it is as bad as it sounds.

Through the first year I rarely made it out, and therefore grew apart and lost more friends. It was like I lost my inner circle and my outer circle all in a few short  years.

Then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and made myself reach out to people I lost touch with. I reconnected with some girls I went to high school with, now mom’s of kids the boys age. We have get-togethers with a ton of kids and three or four moms every 3 months or so. It’s great!

My best friend who moved to Florida has actually been back a shocking number of times so far, and makes it a point to stop in and stay with us every time. So I think I’ve actually seen her more this year with her living in Florida than when she lived thirty minutes away.

I connected with other therapists as I forayed deeper into mental health. I now have a couple nurse practitioners I’m close with and their spouses and kids. I also am so lucky to have kept a friendship going over time with a therapist I trained with many years ago. We grew apart and saw each other maybe once or twice a year and then slowly reconnected; now she was the one I called when my dad died and I asked her to watch my kids with her partner. And they did. For roughly eight hours. God bless them.

My business partner used to be my boss, and she and I have always been close but grew closer in the last couple years in starting a business and then after the deaths of our Dad’s within three weeks of one another.

I do have supportive family around also (and far away supportive family as well).

But socially it’s been the hardest adjustment for me. I’ve never had a ton of friends but I’ve always had people I can hang out with and just relax and have fun with. It’s like with the boy’s birth I shed some really good friends, gained some great new ones, and reconnected with others. But it took time and there were months at the beginning when it was just me, the boys, and my wife. And the cats.

I feel much less lonely now than I did three years ago, and more connected. I have learned that I have to put myself out there. I can’t just expect good friends to drop on my doorstep. I also have to reset my expectations for friends with kids versus without kids.

My friends with kids don’t blink an eye at having a bunch of kids and adults get together. My friends without kids I always give the option of just seeing me alone without the boys or seeing us all together.

I try and be respectful of others expectations. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be a good friend a good mom and a good wife and all that other stuff. Having twins has been the most wild adventure of my life. But also the most isolating. The most challenging.

While deeply rewarding and marveling still sometimes that there’s TWO of them…I sometimes think how much I truly sacrificed for them. It’s a lot.

I wouldn’t trade them for a hundred friends. But there have been moments I’ve wished for at least a couple more.

My point to this long rambling is not to make anyone feel sorry for me, because please don’t. I’m loved by my friends and family and most importantly by my boys. My point is to bring awareness to the fact that new moms; especially of twins and multiples are still the same people they were before just with some extra babies floating around. In my case three year old monsters.

We still want to be called and texted and messaged. We still want invites. We still think of you and all our wonderful pre-kid times together often. We hope to connect with new friends and stay connected with old friends. Don’t leave us alone during these first few years of mommy-hood. We are being pulled in tons of emotional and physical directions.

What was striking to me was that more people reached out to me when my dad died then when my sons were born. More people offered to “help out” when my dad died then when my sons were born. I needed the support more three years ago. I don’t need help now. I need you to just show up and either take me out for a drink or tell me you’ll watch my boys for an hour so my wife and I can go have a drink together. Alone. Maybe we will just have sex in the car. Or a nap.

Either way an hour alone together would be magical. Either way just show up. Or call or text. I’m still here and so is every other new mom. Don’t forget them.

 

p.s. Thank-you to every one who has done this! You know who you are and I could not live my life without the support of everyone who shows up!

Also did a family photo shoot in our bathing suits. Yes. Next blog post.

 

Vagina, Penis, and Poop Problems in Psychiatry

Let’s set this straight. I work in mental health. Psychiatry. I am a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Technically.

Yet when I go to my “open recent” tab in Word I find “Bowel Regimens” as a commonly and recently opened file. I prescribe many medications that cause constipation. So we talk a lot about poop in my office.

Diarrhea is often also a symptoms of anxiety so yeah, poop comes with the territory of mental health.

Nothing surprised me more though than the first time someone told me about their vagina problems. Or their penis problems. I have made the following statements in my office:

“You can use plain yogurt as lubricant because it doesn’t affect your ph so it shouldn’t cause a yeast infection, just make sure it’s plain. No sugar added.”

“Is the rash on the shaft of the penis or are you talking upper thighs?”

“‘Down there’ doesn’t cut it my friend, and remember I’m married to a woman, so you’re gonna have to be wicked specific.” 

“An odor can be caused by many things. Don’t douche that’s so bad for your ph. Stop using all the wipes and scented crap. Let your body regulate itself. I promise your vagina will thank you for it.” 

“That sounds like Herpes. Get that shit tested.” 

“Pull your damn pants up, NO I don’t want to see your rash! Go see your gyno!!”

“So are you able to ejaculate or no?” 

“You understand this means that your testicles will be removed permanently from your body?” 

“You can still orgasm, you just need a partner who’s committed to getting you there. You are familiar with your clitoris yes?…NO!? okay. Here’s a drawing for you. Start externally. Move internally. Use a vibrator at the same time as internal stimulation. From the expression on your face you’ve never used a vibrator. Okay you ever heard of one?” 

“Very rarely this medication can cause a sustained erection. Take sudafed. It works.” 

“Have you ever heard of the jade egg? Well you can pop it in before you start making dinner, by the time you’re done with dinner you will definitely be ready to have sex.”

“Yes there are some that are made with a stringy thing attached so you can pull it out.”

“Your how old? Ugh…okay….let me take a breath here….okay yes we can talk about sex but just know that I think you’re not old enough and the only reason I’m entertaining this conversation is because if you’re going to have intercourse anyway I’d rather you do it safely, but good lord please God wait!”

“To clarify condoms protect against STDs and birth control only protects against getting pregnant and only if you take your pill every day.” 

“And you’re sure there’s no possible way you are pregnant?…..I think you’re pregnant.” (I have said this on multiple occasions and have yet to be wrong. Four times I told the patient before they knew and they later called me to confirm and ask how the hell I knew.)

“Well your partner is stating that douching before anal sex is important to them. How do you feel about that?”

“I’m not the person to tell if you should or shouldn’t have an abortion. I’m just here to support you. I see you. I am here for you no matter what you decide. Let’s keep talking.” 

“You’ve decided to keep it. Okay. Let’s talk about how you’ll finish high school and the stigma of being a young mom. There are people who will want you to fail. But I know you won’t. I know you have what it takes to do this. You’re going to be a great Mom.” 

“The abortion was when? Okay, so let’s talk about how you’ve been feeling since.” *

There are a couple reasons I end up talking about vaginas and penises. Medications I prescribe have sexual side effects. Depression causes a decrease in sex drive. Bipolar mania can cause an increase in sex drive. So people’s sex lives can directly correlate with their mood.

But also, what I’ve discovered, is people want a safe space to talk about sex and sexual organs.

MD’s in their white coats draping patients in awkward paper create a sterile environment. One in which patients don’t feel like people. They feel like specimens. Whereas in my office we may never have touched physically but I know intimate secrets about them and their mental health.

I also treat them like humans. Not specimens.

I also ask. Not about their actual parts. But about their sex lives. Do they have one? Are they satisfied with it? Do they use protection? What kind? I ask these questions and then they know it’s okay to talk about that stuff here.

No I was not expecting the questions about vaginal odors and rashes that accompanied the safe space sex talk. But after it started happening and my initial shock and horror subsided I realized that it was actually complementary. I made them feel comfortable. When I asked why they didn’t ask their medical doctor these questions they often shift in their chair and look down, “Well, I dunno, it always feels like she’s in a rush,” or “I dunno I mean I’m naked and they are in and out, and it’s embarrassing talking about this.”

They are less embarrassed asking me whose never seen their vagina, then asking the doctor who is up their elbows in their vagina.

I also treat a lot of transgender and non-binary individuals who are pursuing surgical intervention for their gender journey. If I’m writing the letter of mental health clearance I have to bluntly say what exactly will happen and what the consequences are so I can write they have a true understanding and can consent to the surgery.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable talking about sex and sexual parts. It’s that it shocked me at first because I went to school to treat the brain. I felt like I was at the wrong end.

Disclaimer: I have never diagnosed or treated with medicine or assessed visually any of the issues that are brought to me by my clients when it comes to anything below the brain. I listen and provide feedback and refer them to a specialist. I am obviously very careful about not practicing outside of my scope.

I think it’s wonderful that clients feel safe with me. I think it’s disheartening that so many don’t feel safe enough to say these things without my support to their primary OB/GYN or urologist or primary. Modern medicine has become so forced, quick, and detached that patients are missing a connection with their providers. They are missing the opportunity to feel safe and supported by all their healthcare providers. Not just in mental health.

It used to bother me. The vagina and penis questions. But now I take it as an opportunity to try and understand what’s missing from their relationship with their medical provider. Why don’t they feel safe saying this to the people who can actually assess, diagnose, and treat it?

I’ve learned a lot about sexual health and sexual dysfunction. I’m proud to say I could likely help any one with difficulty orgasming. I also know more than I ever imagined one could possibly know about anal and vaginal intercourse. I can say the words: penis, vagina, anus, ejacualation, masturbation etc. without blinking an eye or making faces and changing my body language. I mean that’s a score one for me. Try it. Try saying any of the phrases I quoted above to anyone and try keeping a poker face.

My point to all of this: If you are a healthcare provider: people WANT to talk about sex. They need to. They need guidance and help and they have questions. Be open to it. Welcome it. Create a safe space.

If you are not a healthcare provider: ask the questions. You deserve the answers. There is nothing wrong with you for asking.

To all the Mental Health Practitioners: God bless. Find a quality picture of the anatomy of a vagina and a penis. Trust me. You’ll use it.

****To any one who thinks any woman makes the choice to have an abortion lightly: they don’t. We don’t. I have held clients as they wept over the loss. I have treated teenage moms in the thick of it. Society doesn’t like teenage mom’s yet we also judge those who have abortions or who become pregnant. The young women I’ve treated who have faced abortion versus becoming a teenage mom have continuously impressed me with their grace, their strength, and their pain no matter what path they choose.