Sunday I had a hard day. A really, really hard day.
I wanted to interview my self about it because, well, it was hard, but also because I’m wondering if I have any idea of how to approach a situation like that in the future.
Little did I know it would be an interrupted interview, in more than one way…
Interview at the hot springs
We’re meeting in a warm hotsprings pool because Sunday Jesse is in a lot of pain and said this might help her back. It’s a kind of outdoor spa, with round mossy boulders to sit on, and because it’s night time there are soft glowing lights to illuminate things.
(It might sound like I am about to get sexy with my past selves on the hot tub (ooh la la!) but really I just needed to create the kind of extremely lulling peace and comfort where Sunday Jesse could unwind.)
Sunday Jesse: Ahhhh, thank you. This water feels so nice.
Me: I hope it helps! So…I heard Sunday was pretty hard?
Sunday Jesse: (goes silent)
Me: It’s okay, I know it was hard. I was there, too. Can we talk about it?
SJ: Yes, but what about Her?
Me: Oh my, I didn’t know someone else was here with us. Welcome! What is your name?
[Her]: Well…let’s just say you can call me Another Past Jesse.
Me: Okay. Sunday Jesse and Another Past Jesse, I hope you both feel safe. I know Sunday was not a safe time and I brought us all here so we could talk about it. Can either (or both) of you tell me what it was like?
SJ: Sunday hurt like hell. And it just went on and on forever. No one could help out and ugh, I just felt more and more terrible as it went on. I couldn’t snap out of it.
Another Past Jesse: Also, I let the baby eat shampoo.
Me: I heard about that. But I thought it was an accident…
APJ: No, I don’t think you really get it. Listen! I let. The Baby. Eat. SHAMPOO.
Me: Wow, it sounds like that part was really important to you. Tell me more?
APJ: Obviously you don’t get it. If I let the baby eat shampoo that means all kinds of terrible things. The fact that it was an accident is no excuse! What kind of mother lets her baby play with a shampoo bottle? What kind of mother would think–
SJ: Um, hello? What about me? In pain? I need to talk about me!
Me: Okay guys, let’s take turns. Another Past Jesse, why don’t you hang on and we’ll get to the shampoo bottle in a minute. Sunday Jesse, what was it like that day?
SJ: I woke up in a bad mood. I don’t know why. Maybe because I hadn’t slept enough, or because I knew the spouse had to work all day long, or because I knew we had no food in the house. When we woke up I knew I had a tiny tiny window of time before the spouse left for work, that made it even harder. And my back hurt. A lot.
Me: And then what happened?
SJ: Things just went from bad to worse. Because I was in a bad mood, the baby was reacting to that, being more clingy and generally needing more attention. The more she craved attention, the less I could give her, the more I hated myself for it. Later I got so damn tired that I laid down on the floor while she played nearby, and sometimes I would fall asleep for a couple minutes. It felt not-safe and lazy, and it didn’t help fix my tiredness anyway.
Me: It sounds like the baby wanted the kind of attention that you couldn’t give because you couldn’t give it to yourself, either.
SJ: Exactly! And the other hardest thing was that I felt I couldn’t leave the house because my back pain was so bad — going for a walk would have made it worse. I couldn’t drive to get groceries so we basically ate toasted hot dog buns all day long, no joke. It even hurt to lie down so even naptime was not a solution — not that naptime really happened, anyway. Or not until too late.
APJ: Don’t forget — I don’t deserve help if I’m in a bad mood.
Me: Wha—? Where did that come from? Why do you say that?
APJ: Because being in a bad mood means I’m unworthy. If I were worthy of support and help, I wouldn’t be in a bad mood.
Me: That seems like bad logic. Weren’t you in a bad mood before you even knew if someone could come that day to help?
But also — do you believe that about other people? Do you not believe in helping someone when they’re in pain?
SJ: Sometimes when I’m in pain I can’t imagine helping anyone else. But I do want to. And the bad mood definitely came first. So I’m not sure why I believed I was unworthy of help. Maybe Another Past Jesse knows something about that?
APJ: I can tell you one thing: when we’ve been hurt in the past, it was because we were not worthy.
Me: That is a pretty big statement to make. Do you think that is/was true?
APJ: Well it sure felt true. I think I could have fixed things and stopped the pain, all by myself, if I were strong and strong-willed enough.
Me: That seems like a lot of responsibility to bear. It sounds kind of like a martyr’s statement, though. If that statement is true, there is no possible way to receive help without feeling bad about it. That doesn’t sound like a realistic way to live, especially because part of self-care is reaching out to allies, helping them and receiving help, you know?
But in general, it sounds like we brought a lot of past pain with us into this particular Sunday.
SJ: Maybe so, but it was a hard day all by itself, too! I needed rest, and help, and I couldn’t get any, and what the hell am I supposed to do in that situation?
Me: I wonder if there were things we could have done at the time that we neglected because all that past pain that came with us?
SJ: Well, I could have taken some more pain medication. I’m sure a walk wouldn’t have been out of the question, if I’d done that.
APJ: Strategies are all very well and good, but what about the fact that we spent an entire day pretty much being mean to the baby, never mind to ourselves?
Me: This is kind of why I wanted to talk about this. Because we know and agree that it’s not okay to do that. To set up situations of failure and then get mad. To pour negative emotions onto someone else.
SJ: I don’t know what to do, though! The pain is so overwhelming that I can’t snap out of it. And when I wake up in a bad mood and still have to be somebody’s parent all day long, what am I supposed to do?
ABJ: Especially when on top of all that, I still don’t believe I am worthy of help?
This is where I had to interrupt the interview myself, because I’m not sure how to answer these questions. This isn’t a situation where the usual solutions will help: physical movement causes pain. Rest causes pain. Pain medication can help but it also triggers those unworthy feelings. Plus, amidst all this pain and confusion and past pain, I am still taking care of a baby so I can’t exactly step away to journal my thoughts or do Shiva Nata or whatever else.
This is kind of the dark side of parenting. Maybe I need to read up about what others have done in this situation. I can’t be the only person dealing with chronic pain and parenting, or mental health and parenting, or whatever venn diagram this falls into.
I’ll come back tomorrow and try Part II of the interview. Stay tuned.