And these were not "safe" adults, the few I can trust not to judge me, or judge the state of our home, but Adults-with-a-capital-A that I... had... never... met!
When we moved into our current home, we had an open house party on "The Twelfth Day of Christmas" January 6. We had painted our dining room, living room and hallways, as well as the bedrooms. The kids now had separate rooms, pink for Taylor, blue for Mitchell, as you can see in the photo below.
[In Jan 2007 a woman in Vancouver delivered sextuplets. Since the local paper couldn't get pictures from the family (who wanted to remain anonymous), a photographer from the Ottawa Sun came and took some photos of our "multiples", Mitchell and Taylor. This close-up photo is the one that ran in the paper.]
After our successful Twelfth Night party, the kids asked if we could have a party again the next year. But I couldn't manage it. That year had been just a little stressful. We discovered that our daughter Taylor was struggling in school and we needed to have a psycho-educational assessment done. Because she was only in grade one, she was too young to be diagnosed with a learning disability, but she had some processing issues, and was at risk for literacy problems, so we were advised to remove her from the French Immersion program. Three years later it was confirmed that she had dyslexia, so it was a good move.
But we were also struggling with Mitchell's behaviour at home. A psycho-educational assessment for Mitchell said that he would be fine to stay in French Immersion, while Taylor started grade two in her new English-only school. But Mitchell was struggling at school too. We discovered that he was having problems with his teacher, and the way the school handled active little boys in the French Immersion program. His anger and anxiety was spilling over at home. By March Break we knew we needed to move him as well - and get him some help. (You can read more about how we tried to help Mitchell in this post inspired by Nemo's dad Marlin) Unfortunately leaving the French Immersion school also meant the kids losing all their friends, and me losing the community that I had worked so hard to create, a community of moms, friends and families. So, as I said, just a "little" stressful that year.
|Our last Christmas with my mom, 2007|
And then my depression came roaring back. In part, because of my health. I had uterine hemorrhaging and was practically bed-ridden for two years. This is an excerpt from a previous post (you can read the gory details - that women just don't talk about - here)
My iron got lower and lower. I got weaker and weaker. I was more and more tired. I could barely walk up even the most gentle of slopes. I was unable to do anything around the house. My poor husband had to take over laundry and meals, leaving me feeling pretty incapable, adding to my depression. And it also left our home to get more and more cluttered, while my fitness level and mood kept falling.
|Mitchell and his bedroom when we first moved in|
and "After" a few years
I thought I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) because the winters were so hard. I saw a specialist and he put me on some meds. When I went back to see him he said, "You feel better in the Spring right?" My response was, "Um. Not so much. In fact we didn't take down our Christmas tree." He said, "Ah. This is not S.A.D., this is a major depressive episode." He referred me to a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) group where I learned about riding the wave of emotions. It was also where I first realized the shame I had about our house, and learned the strategy of just doing ten minutes, to clean up with tea cup. And then, at the end of that group therapy session, I decided I needed to tackle my eating disorder. I joined a therapy group at the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. The therapist (who inspired the turtle charm) and the women that I met in that group made so much difference in my life. I called them my "Flower Power."
eating disorder, using Pandora charms as my reward. And then after two-and-a-half years of recovery, I asked for help with my depression and panic attacks. And then I attended the "Day Hospital" program in the fall of 2014. And then I did six months of schema-focused therapy in the winter and spring of 2015. And then I participated in a program called "Working with Emotions" doing a program based on DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) in the fall of 2015. And then I was enrolled in a mindfulness meditation series in the winter of 2016. And since then, I have continued working on all of the skills I acquired, with support from my family doctor and a social worker.
And now here we are, in January 2018, in a house that had not been thoroughly cleaned in a looooong time. And now I realize that with all the work I've been doing I have not been writing very many blog posts.
I'm not sure when the kids stopped asking if we were going to have another Christmas party, but they did stop. We didn't invite adults to our home for many years. I was just too ashamed of how bad it got. But we've been working on our Clean Sweep for some time now, using the Hopi charm as inspiration, so this year I suggested we invite parents to our Saturday Games Night, which just happened to fall on Twelfth Night, January 6. My only stipulation was that the kids had to promise to do some major cleaning jobs on their Christmas vacation.
|"Before" and "After"|
One of Taylor's chores was to tidy the basement. We have done a major Clean Sweep in the basement, as you can see from the "Before" photo. (That is a story for another day.) Those plastic bins were ready for the start of our Clean Sweep. In the top photo on the far right you can just see where the futon was open after someone was here for a visit. We have painted the basement, and when Taylor tidied up, she covered the old stained futon with this bear paw quilt that my (blind!) mother made for our wedding. I thought it was quite a brilliant move on Taylor's part, so I took a picture.
When we started Games Night it was my intention to invite families, not just kids. But it never happened. We've been holding Games Night since the kids were in grade 7 and they are now in grade 11. And all those years, I was too ashamed to have adults come to our home. Shame can be very isolating.
Although it feels like we've been working on our Clean Sweep for a looooong time, the house was still VERY dirty. And I could not bear the thought of people seeing it so dirty. The kids were whining and questioning why we need to clean. Mike assigned Taylor the job of cleaning the fridge and of course she complained, and said, "Why do we need to clean the fridge?" So when she got to the part where she took out the fruit and vegetable bins, I said "THAT is why we need to clean the fridge!" and so I took a picture.
|The "Before" and "After" of the fridge|
What did you do on your Christmas vacation? We cleaned our house and had a PARTY! And this massive accomplishment will be marked by Pandora's "Three Wise Men" charm on my "Victorian Christmas" bracelet.
"On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me....
a clean house and Christmas par-TEE."
(and the three kings charm)
And how WAS the party you ask? Well, we had so much fun I forgot to take photos! There were 15 of us in total, including three other parents - moms. Upon arriving, the first mom said, "I wish I was one of those parents that has people over. I'm glad you are." If only she knew! I just smiled and told her, "If the kids are going to hang out with friends, we'd rather have them do it here." She was so pleased to come, and participate, because her daughter, she says, "is always so excited to come."
Taylor's best friend (and a friend of Mitchell's too) said, "My other friends want me to go out with them and are surprised that I'd rather come to Games Night. But it's easy here." So easy in fact that she fell asleep on the couch in the midst of the game. Her mom said, "She thinks she's part of your family." We're happy to have her.
As everyone was leaving, the third mom said, "I've offered to have everyone come to our house." But her daughter just waved her off and said, "It wouldn't be the same Mom." My only complaint was I would have enjoyed visiting with the other moms rather than just playing games - and maybe made a new friend - or three.
I have to say, it is getting easier to share my shame. Because I know that there are others struggling with the same things. And I know this because many of you have been in contact with me. To let other readers know that they are not alone, please comment (anonymously if you prefer) to say you can relate.
I think the other reason that I have less anxiety when I "share the shame" (that should be a hashtag) is that I am more accepting of myself and my situation, and recognizing how I got here. Accept where you are and start where you're at
|Pandora stock photos|
|Photo from the blog Charms Addict|
Maybe this year I'll work on earning the Twelve Days of Christmas charms by redbalifrog.
|Photo by Paula Jackson of the blog beadsaholic|
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