Cleft Lip and Palate · Mental Health · Spirituality

The Emotional Bends

There have been a lot of reminders of the past this week.  I have been busy with lots of Foundation for Faces of Children event preparation, conversations with my mother over vacation and conversations with a student studying speech and language pathology in Canada.  Throw in coming back from vacation, personal major emotional (but positive)  milestones, busy work days and my monthly visitor (ahem) and you may just have the perfect storm.

I don’t even know where to begin.  I guess I can start with the conversation I had with the student in Canada.  We had such a bad phone connection.  Beyond that, it all went extraordinarily well, but brought up a lot for me.  I am again a specimen, this time in her undergraduate project on speech and language pathology for cleft lip and palate patients.  Great, interesting stuff that I want to help be part of.  She wanted the personal experience side of being born with cleft lip and palate to place alongside the medical and professional side.  It was not easy rehashing everything again.  Going over details of surgeries, doctor’s appointments, speech therapy, orthodontia, implants, low self-esteem and my current issues….and how I felt about it all the way through from pre-school to now.  It was tough.  I did not have my usual spirit, humor about me during this conversation.  Kara, the aspiring stand-up comedian did not come out.  I heard my voice go flat…it may have been my annoyance with the phone connection, i don’t know.  It’s hard to know whether the crowd is with you.  It could have been more.

Maybe I was thinking about the conversation I had with my mom last week or the kind things my mom wrote in my new journal about my childhood.  I regularly allocate to her the first page of each journal.  It is a bit of tradition.   My mother affirmed, yes there were a lot of surgeries, but I did have a good childhood.  She wrote something like “I remember the surgeries, too, but I also remember the Swan Boats, Cape Cod, feeding the ducks, going to the beach, etc., etc.  It occurred to me when i read that, with the grapefruit in my throat, that I need to stop focusing on the negatives of my childhood and consider the positives.  My mom wants me to have the courage, as she put it, to be happy and have a great life.  That seems, at times, a tall order when you continue to feel as if you let everyone down most of the time. (Most of the time being every day.  yes, I hold myself to unreasonable expectations.   Being told that I am not good enough by others has become more and more infrequent.  I’m just trying to work my way around some lingering minefields.  Some I know of and others I do not.

Though there were many surgeries I did have a great childhood.  Christ, born into another family, I would have been at a different hospital and to people who would not have had the constitution to deal with it.  I got dealt a pretty good hand, so why do I feel as if I have a pair of 2s and it is clearly time to fold and leave the table.  Simple answer, I have always felt this way.  You can’t be picked and prodded on for most of your time on this planet and expect not to be beaten up a bit by that.  In fact, I reviewed my notes from when I went to the medical records room at Children’s Hospital to review my medical records.  As a baby, I made a quote “gasping” sound and my mother stated to the nurse that that was something I did when I was scared.  You see, I’ve always had anxiety.  Since 1980.  I read that tonight and it blew me away.  I can’t remember making that corollation when I took the notes, but tonight it smacked me clear across my condo.  Anxiety at 1 year old.  The human condition at 1 year old.  A conditioned response from all the poking and prodding…and it continues.  Trouble is anxiety is contagious.  Does that mean that I am destined to push everyone away because I do not want to contaminate them?

It is only now that I am breaking through from it all.  The world is mine and I can have it by the balls if I want.  More determined than ever, everyone is a source of inspiration.  Again, being open and present once more is a gift.  A gift.  I listen to my Mother, I listen to Marc Maron, Jim Breuer, Louis CK, the pipe insulation contractor (no, seriously), friends, family and whomever else.  I soak it up as if I were a dry sponge.  There are still many growing pains, though.  Lots of extra thinking that doesn’t need to go down.  It is going to take some time to get acclimated.  Just like I said to the young woman who interviewed me.  I need time as I am resurfacing, like the deep sea divers, who need to take breaks on their way back to the surface to prevent the bends.  I need to pause, so I don’t get the emotional bends.  This gets on peoples’ nerves.  No doubt, I have certainly put my boyfriend through the paces this week and maybe some of last week.

All in all, my life is pretty awesome.  I need to realize that.  It is just inside that does not match the outside.  I am still a little girl.  Each day I can either get older or younger.  Just depends on what path I take….and how old I want to be.   Sometimes being a child again can be fun, so long as I don’t do anything stupid.

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