I was telling my counselor how in my group session last night we had decided that the nap-thing was not necessarily all about sleep, but more about feeling safe. I feel safe in my car, lying back and passively listening to the radio or music or sometimes just the wind and birds. I get to feeling safe and soothed and then sleep follows. Today I realized that when asked the last time i felt safe, my brain goes first to a prominent memory of taking a nap in my bedroom in South Carolina in 1975 or so.
My mom would put a record on my little record player, usually the music from Disney's Bambi. I would listen to it, snuggled in my safe bed in my safe room in my safe house and fall asleep! This was before my mom contracted Multiple Sclerosis. I hear this little voice saying,"before I made Mommy sick," but I don't trust that this is a feeling I had as a child since I don't remember feeling that way. I know that children do commonly feel this way when something bad happens, but maybe this voice is just me psyching myself out into being over-dramatic.
As for the growing-up-thing, I think I've mentioned before that I saw Peter Pan, the one with Sandy Duncan, on TV maybe when I was in kindergarten or early grade school and agreed with Peter, that I did not ever want to grow-up. I got a bit upset about it and ended up on my father's lap with him assuring me that that was a long long time off and not to worry about it. Well, I'm going to be 40 on the 19th. All through growing-up I have felt like I was spinning my wheels against it as much as I could. When I first noticed signs of puberty I wept and have ever since mourned the loss of my childhood and felt betrayed by my body for becoming an adult and aging when I so did not want it. Even when I was in my 20s doing research that involved children I would cry in my car because I was so envious of them for their youth and because I wanted so badly to be one of them. I know, really rational.
This also connects to my problem of declining to step-up and choose to be the adult in the room. I tend to wait and let someone else do it. If you wait long enough someone will, usually my husband. Why did I not want to become an adult? My thoughts as a child were because then no one takes care of you anymore. I like it best when someone takes care of me. That feels safe. Being an adult feels like failure (often). When I was taking that nap in SC, my mom was not sick, my dad had not had any heart attacks, I had not been rejected serially by every friend I made in grades 1-4, and then again by being a pariah in grade 7 and ignored by boys until grades 11 and 12, where my first boyfriend would not acknowledge me in public and later turned out to be gay (which explained so much, but a lot of damage had already been done). I did not have acne or body image issues.
I think I had my first panic attack in high school and was probably depressed in the last couple of years of college. I had unbearable anxiety after my boyfriend cheated with a girl in 1993 until we got back together. At the time I thought that was about how much I loved him. Now I see it as a symptom and not a good reason to continue a relationship. I had a mental breakdown at my first try at grad school from the stress of being away from home and my boyfriend and everyone I knew, and then had so many issues during my real grad school that I became very close to suicidal and finally went into the care of psychologists and a psychiatrist. After that, my boyfriend had brain surgery, his mother died of brain cancer, and I graduated and took a very underpaid and overstressed job at the university. I went back to seeing a psychologist to deal with that. I almost broke up with my boyfriend of six years because it took so long to get engaged, and then when we did I didn't get to be ecstatic, but instead was unsure and afraid to face the alternative path. I got married, and got off my meds. We moved back East and I got a job after 6 months of being and depressed. I was stressed at that job, had to have 18 crowns done all at once which meant refinancing the house, ran a marathon, got pregnant, had post-partum depression with babies number 1 and 2, though with 2 I was at least medicated throughout the pregnancy and afterwards and the unbearable anxiety phase was intense for a shorter time than before. After I stabilized from that my marriage, OK, my husband, was not happy with my med side-effects of utter and complete lack of or even opposite of libido, so I started trying different meds which resulted in a year of low mood crises, unpleasant side effects like uncontrollable anger, and again back to just about suicidality. Somewhere in there my mother had a terrible decline and died and my father sold my childhood home. I stabilized somewhat and here we are. Hm.
To see that all written out is actually comforting in that it does seem to substantiate my feelings that being an adult is not safe. I know everyone has a list like this or worse, and for once I am not trying to have a pity party here, I just wanted to write it out. I am trying to figure out what this not feeling "safe" means. Its not like I didn't get help and guidance from my parents all through everything. So my premise of not having anyone take care of you when you're an adult is not true, although that is what I believed as a kid.
Do I feel unsafe somehow most of the time? Well, certainly when I had severe bouts of anxiety last spring (meds side effect), in 2008 and 2005 as part of post-partum depression, and the summer of 2003 (boyfriend troubles, yes, the one I married). So those times were very severe, but the rest of the time, say in the last few months? Yes, I think there is often an underlying sense of unease, inadequacy, and failure that do not go away unless my child is being really funny, I am I'm immersed in some media (book, movie) or I am hiding in my bed with no one in the house or my car with no one in it but me and I am reclined and in the fetal position and listening to NPR or something else i.e. recreating (I see now) my experience of napping as a child! Very interesting. I can't prove that these things are actually linked, but it sure seems to make sense. After writing this I was able to rest for a short time in my car (and not sleep and not have it last 3 hours) and not feel so ashamed of it. I felt refreshed and ready to go on with my day. Progress!