The more things change

The more they stay the same.

I read last night that the singer of Everclear also has MS just like I do. That has special significance to me because I was a huge fan of Everclear when my firstborn was a baby. It’s no exaggeration that, in many ways, their album “So Much for the Afterglow” helped me survive the first year of motherhood, which was such a hard adjustment for me. I had such severe postpartum depression that I almost didn’t make it.

So thinking back to those days also nudged me to look at blog archives from 2003-2005, when my third child was a toddler. I was struck by two main things. One, I am still dealing with many of the same issues, which is incredibly frustrating because I should have fixed it by now and instead I’m repeating the same mistakes. Two, I have really lost my voice since then.

Back then, when my third child was a young toddler, I knew that getting out of the house was my ticket to sanity. I had to switch to in-person classes from online-only ones and I felt so enlivened by being around people. (Perhaps that also says a lot about whether my grad school program should be online or in-person.)

I also had so much hope that getting my degree would enable me to work full-time and be among the world of the adults. I knew back then that not being able to earn enough to support myself put me in a very precarious position personally and held back our whole family financially.

And yet, here I am, all these years later, still at home. Still unable to support myself. Still contributing too little to our household income.

Moving here was supposed to change that. I thought the biggest problem in Michigan was the lack of job opportunities. Yet now I’m in one of the best job markets in the country and still earning money from stupid freelancing, all because my kids need transportation from school.

So I’m trying to start again by going back for a master’s degree, which my blog showed me was my plan, even back then. But because I now have the limitations of my MS to consider, do I have the same opportunities that I did 15 years ago?

Can I work and attend full-time school? I mean quite literally: am I capable of doing it? Even though my brain is better than it was, I am still not as sharp as I was then. I don’t even know if I can juggle freelancing plus school. But we definitely need income from me.

Reading through my old blogs also made me feel disappointed in myself now. I used to be so much more interesting than I am now. Maybe that will change once I’m in school and my mind is more stimulated again.

But a big part of it is that I have stifled and suffocated my own voice. That’s true to the point that I even looked to see if it was possible to get the symbol for the throat chakra–normally shown as blue and representing free communication–tattooed over the Catholic tattoo that I now regret. My throat chakra is super blocked.

There’s so much about myself that I feel like I can’t say anymore. Even many of my thoughts seem inappropriate. I have squashed my true feelings on things like politics and religion to try to get along with others.

There are lots of sayings about how being true to yourself will bring the right people to you. I can say that the converse is also true: when you’re hiding your true thoughts, very few people want to be around you.

I feel like I just need some primal scream therapy and to start digging the real me back out of hiding. In reading my old blogs, I was every bit as liberal as I am now, only I didn’t hide it then. I was kinda liberal Christian-ish with a fascination for some aspects of Catholicism, but mostly Buddhist in thinking. Go figure, that’s still what I am, but I’ve convinced myself it’s wrong.

I am more repressed than I have possibly ever been. I’ve gone so far down this path that’s taken me no closer to what I wanted out of my life 15 years ago, to what I still want. And I don’t know how to reverse course.

How can I say I’m any kind of good mother if I resent having had to put my career on hold? I truly enjoy the kids’ company and picking them up from school is a highlight of my day. But when they’re not in school, such as on spring break, I sometimes don’t even leave the house for days at a time.

If I liked being home, that would be one thing. But being at home is this self-perpetuating cycle, fueled by depression that makes me feel like I don’t even want to leave–even though it would be the best thing for me.

I sometimes wonder in moments like this how much my frustrated ambitions play a role in my illness. I know my MS is real–I’ve seen the MRIs and I had a positive result from the spinal tap. But at the same time, the only year since being diagnosed that I didn’t have significant symptoms or a relapse was the year I moved down here. I had so much hope then. I had so much agency. I could work wherever I chose and didn’t have to concern myself with how the kids’ needs would be met. That freedom was such a brief window in the bigger picture of my life.

So how do I get my voice back? How do I become truly myself again, unafraid of offending people? On the one hand, I don’t think Facebook is really the place for it. But back then, FB didn’t exist. Yet I’m reluctant to even post what I really think here.

Furthermore, I’m so tired of the fact that our progress has been relatively slow. I saw a chart yesterday that showed real household incomes and we’re at about the 48th percentile. We should be doing better–and the reason we’re not is because of me. Can we wait two more years until my youngest graduates high school and I finish grad school?

If I can’t handle both working and school at the same time, maybe I can at least find my voice again. Because squashing your voice down to be less offensive and allegedly more socially acceptable really feels terrible.

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