Posts Tagged ‘reality bites’

It’s Not Just “Being Worried”: Anxiety

Well Adjusted

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve struggled with some mental health issues.  I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and dysthymia (persistent long-term depression).  Mental disorders can be debilitating, especially when you ignore them, pretend they don’t exist, and refuse to address them as you would any other illness.  I closed my private law practice in large part because my anxiety had gotten so bad that I was absolutely terrified of checking my email, answering the phone, TALKING to anyone…Getting out of bed was a major accomplishment every day.  Was it all in my head?  Yeah, just like asthma is all in your lungs, and scoliosis is all in your spine.  Stop Having a Seizure

On my better days, I venture the thought of going back into private practice…until the panic hits, and I start getting short of breath just thinking about it.  And I AM medicated.

It’s not something that I can fully control, though I have learned to cope a little better.  My work now is considerably less stressful, and I’m getting paid regularly (!), something that wasn’t happening when I was in private practice, which alleviates a lot of general life stress.  I’m in a much better place.

I’m not the only one who has had their life hijacked by anxiety…Meet Jalen Moore.


I work with Jalen’s mom; my kids were wowed by Jalen’s basketball talent in high school.  He’s gonna be just fine, because he’s smart enough to face HIS anxiety head-on, and work toward responsible management of it.  And like any illness, any physical problem, accepting that it’s a REAL problem, and not a weakness that reflects badly on one’s character is where you start in getting healthy again.

physical effects anxiety

The upshot is a panic attack can feel like you are dying…Nothing to worry about, right?


For a little musical insight, I give you the Black-Eyed Peas: Anxiety.  With the lyrics, so you can see and FEEL a little what this is like.



From the Archives: February 29, 2012

**I wrote the bit below in 2012, just 2 years after I graduated from law school, a mere 7 years after my divorce was final.  It took a lot of years to get to the point where I wasn’t just continually emotionally ambushed by the most innocuous things.  To all of you who are in that place still, know that there will be an Other Side.  The pain subsides; you will be able to draw breath again without agony.


It’s late on Wednesday, and I was just thinking I’d do myself a favor and go to bed early, and passed the calendar in the kitchen and thought, “Well, I’ll just be an over-achiever and change it over to March before it’s like the 5th of March” and I did, and there, on the 16th, written in black sharpie marker in 8-year old handwriting is “Jackson’s B-day.”  And I burst into tears.  Jackson is my baby.  He is 9 on the 16th, and he clearly wanted to make sure I remember :).  I will NEVER forget.


Jacks was 2 years old and 1 day when my ex and I signed our stipulated agreement for divorce.  I signed, even though I was signing away my life, even though it was NOT fair at all,  because I needed out before I had to kill myself.  I couldn’t be married to him for one more second.  And he punished me for it to the enth degree.


The ex took everything–EVERYTHING.  Including my babies; including my Jacks.  March is a killer month for me.  There is not enough Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, not enough melatonin or xanax to ease the pain of March.


“Beware the Ides of March.”  That’s what my grandma told me when I was pregnant with Jackson–he was due the 15th, the Ides.  Had I known what was in store for me over the course of the years, I would have saved us all some time listening to me bitching and moaning, and all the tears and misery, and swallowed all those sleeping pills like I REALLY wanted to back then.  I didn’t.  Now I can’t.  Just gotta suck it up for one more March….


P.S.  I love my baby!  He’s WONDERFUL!  Might be the smartest almost-9 year old on the planet :).

An Essay: In honor of my 43rd year of life, a new year, and to try and maintain my sanity insofar as is possible, THESE ARE THE RULES OF OUR HOUSE:

(**A year ago, on my birthday–which happens to be immediately after the New Year–I decided that it was high time that I expressed to my children exactly what was expected of them in our house.  I don’t have a lot of “Rules,” so to speak–Clean up after yourself, help out, be nice, don’t be a jerk…The basics.  By the time I hit my 43rd year, however, I had determined that this lack of actual definition of what the Rules are was being used against me.  And I decided to take action.  The following is a result of that decisionSent via text to those who live and hang out in my house:)Crack that whip

I am not the dishes fairy. If you come into our house and make a snack, get a drink, cook for yourself, etc, you WILL properly take care of the dishes. “Properly take care of dishes” is defined thusly: if you dirty a dish, you wash a dish. You either empty the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and load yours, load yours into an already dirty dishwasher, or RINSE AND NEATLY STACK your dishes ON THE COUNTER. Nasty slimy dishes in the sink is one of my biggest pet peeves, and y’all have lived with me long enough to know this.

You will clean up the counters after you have used the kitchen in any of the aforesaid ways. This means you put away things you got out, properly take care of your dishes (see above for definition), and wipe the counters. You DO NOT leave sticky yack on the counters, or popcorn kernels, popcorn popper, crumbs, any other appliances you may use on the counters.

You WILL properly take care of your dishes that you remove from the kitchen. This means dishes that you may have previously left in other places around the house. (See above for the definition of “properly taking care of your dishes.”)

You WILL clean up your own trash. Wrappers, plastic cups, cup o noodle cups, etc, are to be placed on a proper trash receptacle, NOT left on any surface around the house.

You WILL keep garbage in vehicles cleaned up and in the appropriate garbage sack. When the sack gets full, you WILL take it out of the car, put it into the outside garbage can, and replace the sack. You WILL NOT leave spilled drink yack, dirt, crumbs, etc. in the car after you use it. We are not driving around dumpsters! Every car has wet wipes in it. USE THEM.

Failure to comply with ANY of these rules by ANY person will result in the wifi password being changed, and not given out again until the problem is remediated. So y’all better figure out how to follow the rules PDQ or you’ll spend a lot of time watching basic cable, reading actual books (GASP!), or twiddling your thumbs.

I AM DONE. You WILL act more like responsible adults. I will not let you move off into the world as slobs and assholes who take advantage of those you live with.

Clean house

(The Epilogue:  Things got generally better.  I only changed the wifi password once, however, because as it happens, it’s more of a pain for me than it is for the kids.  Though I did make sure to spread my irritation at the pain to all of them, so they could share in my Joy ;).  And my oldest son moved out and into an apartment with friends last spring.  By December, he was ready to move back in with me…his roommates aren’t the cleanest, and it grosses him out.  Made my mama heart proud :).)

The Advisory Guidelines: Especially at the Holidays

I’ve written a number of blog articles about parent time and the holidays, but in the interest of making sure you are in the right frame of mind, I thought I’d do another one this year.  The holidays can be a really lovely time with your kids, if you and your ex can be grown ups about it.  I’ve mentioned this a few times before as well.  You have a parent time order in place; follow it.  You and your ex have family holiday parties going on that may or may not coincide with your particular parent time schedule; work with each other so your kids can be part of both of their parents’ family fun.

In Utah this aspirational “working together” thing has actually been made part of the statutes.  It’s called the Advisory Guidelines, and they’re found at UCA 30-3-33.  Some specific portions that are important to follow during the holiday season:Treat them as good as you are

(3) Special consideration shall be given by each parent to make the child available to attend family functions including funerals, weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant events in the life of the child or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict with the parent-time schedule.

(17) Each parent shall be entitled to an equal division of major religious holidays celebrated by the parents, and the parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not celebrate shall have the right to be together with the child on the religious holiday. (emphasis added)

Note the “shall”s in those parts of the statute.  That means that this working together and being nice for the sake of the kids is mandatory.  And you should think it’s mandatory anyway, without having to have the law tell you how to be a good parent. Because honestly, that’s all the advisory guidelines are–the law telling you to be a good parent, not jerk the other parent around, do what you can to make your child’s life and experiences as full and peaceful and normal as possible, even though his/her parents are divorced.  Be a good person.  Communicate about the kids.  Think about how what you’re doing and how you’re interacting with your ex will affect your kids.  These are not hard things.  And if you’re the only parent doing it, STILL DO IT.  Somebody’s gotta be the grown up.  Take it upon yourself to Be the Grown Up.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me….



Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

…and Time Waits for No Man…

Tomorrow is the first day of school for my kids.  I have a freshman and a senior in high school, starting Tomorrow.  The first day of school is always a little bittersweet.  It’s exciting to see my kids getting older, growing, all those great things that parents so enjoy, that we are lucky to be able to witness.  But it’s also just another marker of time, and my children growing up, and not being Children anymore.

First day of School 2010

First day of school 2010…they’re not little anymore…

I have been there for the first day of school every year since my divorce was final, 12 1/2 years ago.  Whether I lived 2 minutes away or 7 hours away.  There were a lot of years that I’d hug my kids, see them off on the bus, then drive away and cry for hours.  I don’t have to drive away and cry anymore–tomorrow, for the first time EVER, school is starting during MY parent time week.  Not that it really matters much anymore…I’ve lived within 3 blocks of my ex-husband for going on 3 years now, so even if he has the kids for the week, I’m just a minute away.

The hard part for me is the Looking Back that we tend to do at the beginning of a new school year.  And I’m not over all the loss from the past years enough yet to do that without becoming an emotional mess.  You know what they say–Time and mercy heal all wounds.  Still waiting on time and mercy….

Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

I spent last Friday in a divorce mediation.  The marriage spanned two decades; the parties have 5 kids.  By my client’s account, it was not a happy marriage, and the miracle was that it had not ended sooner.  broken heart

The agreement we mediated was about as good as it gets in terms of being a statutorily equitable split.  My client WANTS to get divorced, but she’s still very upset about the whole thing.  It’s just not really fair, even if it’s equitable. And Why?

Because it will never BE “fair.” Because she did not get married to get divorced.  Because she has 5 kids who are heartbroken and disillusioned and upset about the situation their parents are in.  Because she had planned on a Future, that didn’t include getting divorced, that may have included kids’ graduations from high school and weddings and grandkids, with all the traditions you see in an intact family.  Because at one time, she had a Dream of what life as a married person would look like.

And that Dream is dead, not to be resuscitated. No divorce settlement will ever be able to make all the pain ok or right or fix it.  Getting divorced Hurts.  Bad.  Even when it really NEEDS to happen.  Getting divorced is like running head-on into a wall.  Boom.  Turn around.  Start over.  Somehow.  And a lot of times that “starting over” is from less than Scratch.  Like, no retirement left, no job experience, kids and expenses but not enough income to pay for everything AND maintain any kind of actual life.

You’ve gotta take some time to grieve after a divorce…Maybe a long time.  Because getting divorced is the ULTIMATE break up. And we all know breaking up is hard to do.

They say time and mercy heal all wounds.  The challenge is surviving the passage of time, ya’ll.  So be gentle with your divorcing and newly divorced friends.  It’s a pretty horrific thing they’re going through.

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