by Cindi j Jeffrey | Jan 9, 2021 | childhood, Depression, Fear, mental health, parenting, Relationships, school, self-care, Uncategorized, Wellness
Ugggg…what a fuckin nightmare. It is different for everyone, yet no one really understands what it is or where it comes from.
I have experienced anxiety since I was a little kid, however, I didn’t understand that was the underlying condition. I could (and still can) rationalize it away. Like most kids, I would be afraid of what was under my bed, or what could be lurking in my closet. However, I took it a step further and began to unplug every electronic device in my room, so a fire would not emerge. Futhermore, I would be afraid when my brother ate alone, because I didn’t want him to choke. Additionally, there were days I went without eating because I was sure I had a lump in my throat. It took the doctor telling me I was fine before I ate some real food (therapist friends, analyze that one, I have).
What you see is not what is happening
Perhaps the biggest and most creative thing I pulled off was the following: One day I was playing in our attic, (which also kind of became a toy room, as it was a small room off directly off of my bedroom)…I discovered we had rat poison in there and I freaked out. From that point on, I would not touch anything from the attic as I associated it with that poison and was terrified I would become poisoned. I associated the rat poison with harm to my own person.
Eventually, this manifested into me my touching my food and I even made a game at the school lunch table…I wanted to see who could eat without touching their food. I can’t remember how long this went on, but even as an adult, I can remember how strong those feelings were and how I was sure something bad would happen if I couldn’t control my surroundings. Side-note: I am pretty sure I never stepped foot in in that attic again.
Often, anxiety stems from a lack of control of your world. It’s no secret that life is chaotic and as a child who needed structure, I began to internalize my anxiety, often leading to racing thoughts and dysfunctional though patterns. I would begin to doubt my worthiness, or I would begin to exhibit Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behaviors. I wondered why God didn’t love me enough to protect me from the things that were happening around me.
As I grew into a teenager, those OCD behaviors manifested. I would draw crosses on my homework, or I would feel the need to avoid certain foods, drinks, or places for fear of something bad happening to me. Little did I understand that I was creating my own little world of negative thinking and fearfulness.
I was typically home alone from the time I got home from school (when I attended) to when I went to bed, leading me to be terrified of something happening. To ensure I would know if anyone ever entered my home and to feed into my OCD, I would place all of our throw rugs a certain way. If they had been moved, I would know someone had entered my home. I remember one day I arrived home from work and saw the first rug scattered by the front door…as I walked trepidisciously through the large, two story home, each rug was moved…I was so fricken terrified that I ran out the front door, only to discover, my best friends parked down the street laughing at me.
I knew my brain was wired differently, I just didn’t know how to handle it. I did the best I could to control those thoughts, but it was exhausting. This once A student and pretty good athlete began to fail classes and lose interest in sports. I began to self medicate with alcohol as it would numb my senses. I slept more. The cycle began and contrary to my own interference, the guilt, self loathing and anxiety continued to increase.
Looking back, the adult me wants to hug the child me so tightly that little me understands she is not alone. This was during a time period when my parents were either working or not home and my brother was trying to figure out his next chapter. I was the lost child. The one that drifted just under the radar and did enough positive things to walk the line. I needed help, but even I couldn’t recognize that, nor could I ask for it. And when I did, or when it was offered, I was not the easiest patient to work with.
Anxiety looks different in everyone
The grown up me looks back and recognizes my delinquent behavior for what it was…anxiety and depression. I was begging for attention, regardless of positive or negative. My interactions with adults were minimal, as my dad worked nights and I didn’t live with my mom. My teachers saw very little of me, as I only attended school sporadically. When I was there, I was apathetic and/or disrespectful.
There is a saying “All it takes is one person to believe in a child for them to be successful.” Fortunately for me, I had a teacher and an associate principal who both saw past my emotional walls and believed in me. I pushed them away and I definitely tried to maintain my boundaries, but they prevailed, and because of them, I did graduate from high school.
Adult versus child perceptions
Conversely, the other thing the grown up in me can see is that my parents were doing the best they could do. Divorce is devastating for all involved, no matter what steps brought a family to separate (I could write another piece on this). We can question the why’s and the why nots, but at the end of the day, we can’t change anything. It’s really fuckin hard to parent when you are struggling to take care of yourself, trust me, I know this for a fact.
Grant yourself GRACE, my friend. I am.
just call me, anxiety girl
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Jul 12, 2020 | childhood, grief, Inspiration, parenting, Relationships
Parenting Moment Pause
At the age of ten, my child is such a character. He is funny, kind, and continuously makes us smile.
When I was ten, I was a fantastic student and a people pleaser, if not a tad bit of a brat. It was at this age that I learned that death is real. It was the summer heading into 5th grade when two of our neighborhood boys were killed in a motorcycle accident. To this day I remember where I was when I heard about it. I was with my best friend and we were babysitting her niece when her parents and aunt came and broke the news.
These friends were also her neighbors and the reality of what had happened was crushing. We would never be the same and our childhood innocence was shattered. Watching our friends parents grieve and watching the community come together to support them was incredibly overwhelming and our childhood minds didn’t realize these moments would stay with us forever.
I want to preserve that innocence in my ten year old for as long as possible. Has he experienced death? Yes. That’s unavoidable. However, as a parent, it is my job to also instill hope, love, and grace.
As I look at my oldest child, I see myself at that same age learning that families don’t always stay together. At 12, my parent’s divorced and life as we knew it was changing. Looking back at that situation as an adult, I see things so differently than I did as a child.
At 12, I took an amazing trip across the country with my brother and my father to celebrate my brother’s graduation. The memories are priceless and still make me smile. For example, crushing my brother at Circus Circus in Las Vegas and him accusing me of cheating ( it sucks when your little sister can kick your ass at the water guns).
Unfortunately, the return home was awful. First my dad moved out, then they traded spots and my mom left. Dad worked nights, so I went from having someone home with me constantly to coming home to an empty house and putting myself to bed. While my brother was there he was living his own life and moving toward his own goals.
At 12 I began parenting myself. As I look at my beautiful 12 year old hormonal son, I can’t imagine him having that responsibility. Granted, there are times he probably would love to be on his own, however that isn’t a choice he is developmentally able to make.
As a child, I was grief-stricken by these events. As an adult, I can look back and recognize the events that forever imprinted my life. As a parent, I can’t imagine the pain my parents and the parents of our friends were going through. “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle you know nothing about” is one of my favorite quotes and I still believe this to be true. We are all hiding behind our smiles and putting our brave faces on for the world.
As a parent, I have experienced my share of grief and I have tried to shield my children from the crushing affects of it. That doesn’t mean they have not seen my cry, for they have. They have lost their beloved pets, uncle and grandmother and they know the circle of life.
And as their parent, I want to protect their innocence. I want to shield them from the ugliness of our world, however that may look. But, as their mom, my job isn’t to do that. It is to equip them and empower them so they can handle whatever comes their way. God help me in doing that. There is a reason they say it takes a village…
Just remember, my friend that we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. Let’s practice grace, not only with one another, but with ourselves as well.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Jun 11, 2020 | Faith, Fear, grief, Inspiration, mom, parenting, positive, Relationships, self-care
The Lion King
Remember watching the movie and listen to the song, “The Circle of Life” and the celebration that ensued with the birth of the baby? And who didn’t cry with Simba’s father died? I know I am a bawling mess every time I watch that show. there is a part of me that wishes real life was more like cartoons though, as they seem to quickly move through those tough emotions.
In real life, those emotions don’t move that quickly. They ebb and flow, allowing us to feel focused one moment and utterly drowning the next. believe me, I understand why Simba disappeared into the unknown to be alone and refused to come back to what he knew. There are so many emotions vying for control. Guilt, grief, anger, sadness, joy and then they all start to mess together until we are not sure what we feel anymore.
Four years ago we unexpectedly lost my brother. I am still grieving and sometimes that hurt hits as and feels as though I have been gut punched. In the time following, our family lost a well loved minister, two beloved uncles and my mother’s partner. Last year my mom passed. Additionally, my immediate family lost two loving dogs, which also sucked.
For four years, I have been on the fuckin roller coaster of living and loving and crying and grieving. There have been times where I have been truly paralyzed by grief and there have been other times where my motivation to live was overpowering.
Grief doesn’t come with a handbook (ok, maybe a guidebook)…but one size does not fit all. For me, as I struggled, being a mom was my foremost goal and I while I wanted to keep a sense of security for my kids, I knew there were days that I just wasn’t present. Putting a smile on my face while talking to my loved ones about their own losses was so terribly hard. Keeping the consistency of a somewhat schedule and getting the kids where they needed to go kept me focused for short periods of time.
June has some tough anniversaries for my family. First my brother and more recently, we had our mom’s first anniversary of her death. Sometimes I think the anticipation of the anniversary can be worse than going through the day itself. Honestly, I suck at remembering anniversaries but my mind and body seem to know what’s going on, even when I don’t.
The best unsolicited advice I can give anyone reading this is the following. “be gentle with yourself”. Grief can come in like a fricken hurricane, go into a wave pool and return to a level five storm before we even know what we are dealing with. I now there were so many times I was figuratively getting ready to dip a toe into the water and BOOM, I was fricken sinking into the deep end.
It’s time to live
I know one thing. My brother would be irritated with me for not stepping up and taking life by the wings. He was a live in the moment type of guy and I remember him always falling asleep in his recliner because he ran himself ragged. While my mom’s body just wore out. She never recovered from the death of my brother, and especially the death of her other half, Ray.
She was done and her body was done. Thus the circle of life was complete.
Both of them taught me that life is meant to live. So challenge yourself today to take a new route. Step out of your comfort zone. Share those compliments you keep in your head. After all, sometimes tomorrow never comes…and what will your legacy be?
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Nov 11, 2019 | childhood, Dreams, Fear, mom, Momfail, parenting, Relationships, self-care
The Favored Child
If you have more than one child in your family, the chances are great that you have the favored child. Whether you think so or not, I guarantee that your children think you do. This is a tough one to swallow, isn’t it? As parents, we try so hard NOT to focus our attention on just one child. However, the truth is that it may be beyond our capacity to show love and more about how our children internalize our actions.
I did a poll on my Facebook page a few days back asking if people have a favorite child. They had two choices…Absolutely not and it depends upon the day. The vast majority agreed that it depends upon the day. So let’s explore what may be the resoning behind that answer.
A day in the life
Look, I get it. Parenting is hard. As moms, we are expected to put aside our own needs to meet the continual needs of others. I have always said that becoming a parent is putting your needs aside for your child’s wants. Truthfully, that is sometimes easier said than done. And let’s face it, each child is different and each child has good days and bad days just as we do.
But wow…when we all have those bad days together, things can go from perfection to destruction in a matter of seconds. My two boys are like night and day. Their demeanors are so different from one another. Honestly, I try to respect their differences regardless of how trying that can be. The irony is that when we found out we were having another boy, I was stoked because I thought i knew what I was doing.
Let’s just declare right here that I was wrong.
Where it all began
My family loves watching Last Man Standing. We get such a kick out of watching another famiy work and often laugh at their antics. We also talk about how we would handle those same situations. If you are a fan, you already know that Mike, the father always claims that Eve is his favorite daughter.
I took this to a whole nother level in our home and began telling the boys that they were my favorite child after they did something helpful or amazing. This little interaction resulted in them trying to outdo one another in order to be “mom’s favorite child.” Fast forward a few months and I began wondering if there will be any psychological ramifications to their adult psyche. Both the social worker and mom in me is always worrying that I am jacking these boys up. That struggle is real.
Which led me to my thoughts as an adult. I always though my parents favored my brother. After all, he was rarely in trouble, he was the first in our family to go to college and he went on to be a very successful and respected professional. I, on the other hand was the difficult child and while I used to joke with my parents that they would have been bored if I had been more like my brother, they didn’t necassariy agree.
Looking back, he may have thought that I was the favored child. After all, we grew up very differently, as he was raised by my grandmother, my mom and dad and I was primarily raised by my mom in the younger years and my dad and brother as I grew older.
Grandparents and the favored child
The favored child doesn’t just stop in one generation. That favored child’s kids will also feel the difference in how their grandparents interact with them. Where the grandparents choose to spend their time and the relationships they may or may not cultivate say more to the next generations than they may have ever thought.
According to an article on Owlcation, there definately can be long term ramifications when children do not feel as though they are always being compared to their siblings or are always in continual disagreement with their parents. Wow, no pressure, right?
The truth is that as parents, we need to be aware of how our interaction are delivered AND how they are being received. each child responds to interactions based upon their individual experiences and expectations. And, as parents, we are responsible for interacting with each child according to their own indivudal needs.
What if you clash
Let’s face it. There will be many many times where our kids will do something that just make us shake our heads. And there will be times as parents when we make a decision and shake our heads. As parents, our job is not to be their friends, rather our job is to teach them about how they fit into the world around them. It means that sometimes we all lose our shit and we can model how to apologize and own our actions.
It also means focusing on the postives and letting our children know they are loved and accepted for who they are…not who we want them to be. Maybe that is the key. Allowing the children to be who they are rather than holding on to a dream we had for them. Allowing them to fail so they will learn how to work through the tough times. It’s been said that it takes seven positive statements to undo one negative statement. Those are some big numbers, however I think we can do it.
I will leave you with one last thought. Don’t push yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give. These children didn’t ask to be brought into the world, we brought them here. Take care of yourself, mama because these littles are only little for a short period of time. Grant yourself some grace and model setting boundaries so your child can also learn to do the same.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Sep 30, 2019 | childhood, Fear, mom, Momfail, parenting, Relationships, school, self-care
As an empowered educator, I communicate directly with kids via classroom settings. Furthermore, our topics of conversation can be difficult to process. My experience has taught me that children react differently to the tough topics that hit them close to home. Because of this, I am always alert to the signals from my audience. Incidentally, a few weeks ago, as we talked about “consent” a young man responded with something that still makes my stomach flutter.
To set the stage, as I present, I often share stories from my own experience to provide context. On this particular day, we were discussing how our parents often instruct us to hug other adults, even if we don’t want to. When I asked the students what this experience teaches us, this kiddo responded “we need to do what adults tell us”.
As a result, I stopped in my tracks. I was mind blown. First of all, not because he said anything wrong, on the contrary as I looked at the larger picture, I mentally asked myself if we (as adults) help our children create their own boundaries or create uncomfortable situations for them. Even more so, the look in his eyes was haunting and the social worker in me wondered what had triggered fear for him at this particular moment that he was remembering.
Likewise,I know that as a child there were certain adults I felt comfortable with and others who I didn’t. Even at a young age, I could recognize who I was not comfortable with…even if my parent’s didn’t.
What if we empowered
Conversely, as I procrastinated by scrolling through FACEBOOK, I watched a video of a teacher welcoming her children to class. Ultimately, she provided the children with a choice of options on how they wished to be greeted. What an empowering way to begin the school day! These students were given choices based upon how they were feeling at that very moment. Above all, these children were empowered.
What if we allow our children to choose how they want to greet others. This doesn’t allow them to be disrespectful, in contrast, it empowers them to make their own choices. Above all, let us teach them to create boundaries and empower them to redirect others when their boundaries are violated.
Authors Note: For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please visit The Set Me Free Project.