Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's not Oliver, it's us

We went to see a children therapist about 10 days ago. The first appointment is called parental intake. We talked to her for 45 min going through a questionnaire we had pre-filled and she was asking additional things. We told her how Oliver can say things so so hurtful (and scary) like I will call the police, tell them you hit me so you go to jail. And how bed time is hell. How we are at the end of the tether we don't know what else to do. The main points we came out with from the session were that her first concern was that Oliver was somewhat above average for academic intelligence and that this is a problem as we forget he is only 5. While this seems a good thing, for a child and his parents it isn't. I't very difficult to parent a child that to you sounds more and more like a teenager and not a child. The next thing was that we treat Martina and Oliver much the same while Martina is still a toddler (even though we definitely don't see her as a toddler) and Oliver is a school boy. That really we should treat them differently, they should go to bed at different times and possibly be separated in different rooms (they love sleeping in the same room but we know this is one of the reasons why bedtime is hell...they wind each other up..). She also said we need to be much firmer in our parenting, not engage in any negotiation, we are those in charge, not him. We should also not reward normal behaviour (say it is normal that a child does not run around a shop, rewarding him when he does behave well in a shop is not ok). And that we should let them watch more television. Not games on the iPad (Oliver gets 5 minutes at the weekend only) but cartoons are ok. I suppose we just don't watch television during the day, we have one television in the sitting room and that's it, but she said actually letting the children watch a cartoon in the evening after dinner is calming and watching tv with them is an opportunity to talk about what's going on in the cartoon. She mentioned she may recommend that Oliver should be assessed and possibly we could be referred to a psychiatric clinic...

So I came out with a splitting headache and my heart weighing a ton. We decided to implement straight away the staggered bed time. We thought it was going to be hell but actually it's as if we discovered a new world. Oliver loves having a little longer downstairs and Martina is tired anyway. Mike was perfectly capable of doing this on his own too and Oliver in a matter of 3 days became a different child. And I mean the total opposite. Obedient, understanding. We made clear there will be treats twice a week and only linked to good behaviour and again that worked beautifully. Bed time no longer lasts 2 hours but it's 20 min per child. Seriously if someone had told me this would work I would not have believe it.

And we went back today, the idea is that we go in first, tell her about the week then Oliver goes in. Only things went a bit differently. We talked beforehand that we should tell her we are having issues in our marriage too (we didn't say this the first time). So after a round up of our amazing progress (she was delighted, had met Oliver in the waiting room already and thought he was your normal friendly child) Mike told her about our difficulties. She asked us to talk to her about it and basically in the end she said that maybe it's us needing therapy. We chatted some more, I told her how things have changed for me, about the lack of support I feel, how Mike has rarely be the person I would confide in and now not at all. We touched on a few points like forgetting birthdays, upbringing etc. Looks like next week she will see only us. She did spend about 20 min with Oliver and when she came out she said he is the most normal, though likely above average for intelligence and she doesn't need to see him again for a few weeks. So here we go, it's couple therapy for us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The land of Robin Hood

Well, it's week two, my second trip over and I love it. I love the little apartment I have and I love the area I am in. The first impression is how clean the city is. Separate recycling facilities at every corner, this is amazing! And the city is very small, I'd say about the size of one of the towns in the suburbs of Dublin, so everything is very near and commuting is super easy. From where I live at the moment to the University I have 5 stops on the tram line...like 10 minutes top, and for £1.70!! And the tram line is just outside the door. Traffic is clearly a fraction of what I would call "traffic" in Dublin...here it's about as busy as it is in Dublin at weekends or school holidays.

My plan is to get a bike hopefully next week and use that one instead of the tram. And the university has secure bike storage areas one can access only with the staff card. Amazing. I will have to look for a more permanent accommodation of course and now I have a much better idea what we can get and where. Despite the fact that I'm not in the city centre, very near me there is a 24h very large convenience store I can walk to (or one tram top). It feels very very safe and friendly too. Evenings are very quiet, maybe it will be more lively as the days stretch more, not that we ever went out that much of course but still one may want to at some point.

The children don't like my travelling much and neither do I. Specially the way Oliver has acted out recently (we have an appointment with a child psychologist on the 3rd of March). We had another very bad episode last staurday, full blown violent tantrum which he just could not control. And then he was a model child the day after. Go figure. I talked to the mother of one of his school friends, mostly I wanted to see if the friend would say something about Oliver's behaviour in school, and she told me they are going through exactly the same with her son...violent tantrums he never had before, zero listening, extremely bad behaviour when they are outside etc. We can't understand what's happening, they also were thinking of getting some external advice. We now wonder if it's something in school. There is a boy who is very physical and often sits on the "thinking chair" and apparently is really disobedient to the teacher also. We will have a parents-teacher meeting next week I think so we will ask.

And that's all for now my friends, I am doing well otherwise, anxiety settled completely, with Mike things are ok, I think he understand more the situation, I love my independence and freedom but I always look forward to going back home. Let's see how it goes once we all move here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How to be a Brit

It's nearly time. On monday I'm starting in the UK. And for the last 10 days or so my anxiety is back. Ah I was doing so well... but no obviously not. Just give me something to look forward to, some target, something to develop and the anxiety just seem to come associated.

I started having this back pain which moved to the left side and comes around the upper part of the stomach...I know I know it has the classic signs of stress and all, but what can I tell you...

Things with Mike seem to have stabilised, I do my things he does his. On wednesday, our of the blue, he took me out for dinner. First time in 13 years I think. It was a lovely evening, the conversation was very normal. But it's as if I am now living in my head, with my own real life somewhere else and my actual real life is some sort of intrusion. Science is going very well, my group is really delivering and in particular a collaborative project is amazing. I brought a student with me to Switzerland (where the collaborator is based) and we got a day on the slopes too. I so so love skiing, it was just one of those perfect days. Made me realise how much I actually miss the continent, the possibility of just hopping on the car and go to the Alps for a day. Maybe one day...

As for the UK. I thought I was just looking forward to starting, it will be really intense at least until the summer when the family moves over too, I'm flying out every monday morning at 8 am and back every wednesday night with a 9pm flight. I'm not even sure they will like this much at all in the new place, but there's no way I can stay without seeing the children for 5 days a week. Plus I'm teaching in Dublin thursday and friday and I still have my group here. But I also don't have any commitments till the autumn semester, I will just write papers and grant proposals. Can really do this anywhere.
I have an Airb&b sorted at least till I find a house, and it will save me a good bit of money as I will only pay for the day I'm using it. My office over there should also be sorted, at least I hope so.

Oliver has had a couple of really bad days. Days where I think I want to have him assessed. Today he got to the point of actually hitting me. I really don't think it's normal. And what makes him escalate is nothing. Literally nothing. And he would make a scene like he is possessed. Nothing calms him and even if you give in to whatever it is he wants that very second, 10 minutes later there is another more pressing request. Today we went from water (no problem) to juice (no there is no juice, I'm sorry) to ice-cream, to electric toothbrush, vitamins, cake, nuts, marshmallows. In the space of 2 hours. 2 hours. We were out shopping and what seemed to work was to let him take what he wanted (vitamins) only to trade it in if he then wanted something different. We went home with a bag of nuts.  And it started this morning just out of bed. We don't know what to do. And this adds to my anxiety. Any suggestions is welcomed.

Martina thank god is the sweetest child. I don't even know how she is not influenced (though at times she is) and is just very very reasonable, and fun to be around. Let's hope it will last forever.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016

And we turned another page of the calendar! We are still in Italy at my parents, not too easy at times but not bad either. We will be back in Dublin on the 3rd. Mike and I sleep at my sisters most nights but all is calm. I try to be affectionate but that's all I manage and we had not further talk.

Oliver turned 5 today, can you believe this? He is a very good child most of the time but can still be impossible. I hope next year I will be able to say we have finally gotten over the tantrums (much much rarer thankfully). He seems to need very little sleep, and that worries my a bit, mostly because I am certain when he sleeps less he also much more prone to silly behaviour. He is highly articulated and has a great memory so we have to be quite careful as silly distractions doesn't work at all anymore.

Martina is the sweetest girl, so so affectionate and just a very content child. Long may this last!

And I'm looking forward to the new year, I hope it will bring some clarity and calm in my mind, I am sure that moving will be great too and will give me so much to look forward to.

I wish you all much love and I feel blessed to have you to share my journey.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ask me if I'm happy

This is the title of an Italian movie I really liked (and I think it sounds better in Italian than in English, but ah well).

So what's new. Not much. The teaching term is over, now one week of apparent calm and then exams will storm the buildings like every year. It will be over too eventually.
Mike is back to his normal self. No real conversation since, he is still doing things for the move, looking for a job, making arrangements for early January to go over etc. Our talking is back to trivial and day to day stuff. We did the shopping for Christmas on line for the children and he did most of the research which was good.

Yesterday we went out for lunch. For the first time in years I'd say we had a baby sitter and we went with friends into town for a catch up and a bite to eat. It was nice, we get on very well with them and yet it felt to me I was acting all the time. Acting to be happy in my relationship, acting to be interested in the upcoming wedding of two of our friends, acting to cheer the news of the third pregnancy of another common friend. They all looked so so happy...
When we came home we put up the Christmas tree (never one of my favourite things to do really) and I was looking at Mike and the children fluffing up the branches (we have a very expensive, very real looking fake tree) and putting up the decoration and I was feeling so much sadness... I'm sure it's also hormonal but still. I so wish I could share that happiness that lightness of the heart...while I just wished I was somewhere else. And this is so so heavy on me, I feel totally responsible for the lack of enthusiasm, for again feeling very much alone (I worry a lot about the move and just keep it to myself, Mike never asks), completely preoccupied with things other than the family and it's not right. I started thinking it will be the last Christmas in this house for sure, got a bit emotional. When I told Mike he said "let's make it a good one" and he is right, I just don't know where to find the magic dust...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The talk

I brought the children to Italy the last weekend of October and I flew back late on monday while they stayed with my parents till the following thursday. I had a super time, talked a lot with my sister and my best friend and things became even clearer.

I was not set on having a "talk" as such but it somehow happened and there was the right occasion. It started with Mike coming to pick me up at the airport. This would not be too unusual but the fact that he parked the car and actually came inside the terminal definitely was. I thanked him and commented that it was unusual and he said "really?". Yes, really.

We drove into work together and I started asking some questions about his work and the move to the UK and he was yet again completely disengaged on all fronts. So I thought I could not let the opportunity go by and really opened up my soul about how I felt and how little supported I have been feeling all along. He was very quiet. We (I) talked about feelings and emotions, and how I don't feel loved at all, I reported several examples throughout the years and he could only agree that this and that was really not a nice thing to say/do. We talked some more in the evening, I made clear that I don't want to break up the family but I feel very much trapped in a situation where I am alone in most of the important decisions, that I am the one pulling us everywhere, that I don't see him having much of an aspiration for himself in just about anything that goes on. I asked him what does he want for himself and he didn't know. He was clearly shaken and I felt this huge relief of finally having told him. The main points were the lack of sharing thoughts and feelings, the really just having sex was what made us different from the rest of the people we know, and our very different understanding of loving. I don't feel at all we are partners.

A couple of days went by with little conversation of any relevance, the children came back, my parents were here for a few days so not much happening.

Then he emailed me one day last week saying he was barely keeping it together and could we talk some more. So we did of course, I'm never the one that doesn't want to talk. Again it felt like I was the only one talking but I suppose he just wanted to understand more how I felt. In the end it was clear that he missed more the fact that I was no longer affectionate and I explained that I have no problem being affectionate, but not sexual because I can hardly have sex with someone I feel doesn't get me much at all. He accepted that I think. He asked me what I would have done if we had no children, would I have left him? I pointed out I clearly have a very poor track record in the way I choose partners, but that probably I still would have tried to talk to him and get him to at least understand how I feel. I don't know if I can bring back any feelings other than deep family love (but not like a brother, he asked that, no it's much more than that).

Since then he suddenly found a new enthusiasm about the move (he is looking for schools for the children, jobs etc) and went back running. I'm glad for him, I hope he is not doing it just for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Emotionally starved"

This is the definition my psychotherapist used to describe what is going on inside my head and heart. And I realised this is perfectly fitting.

Till we had plans, things to do, to keep busy, etc. I did not notice that my emotions did not get sufficient attention (understatement of the year). Throughout my infertility years I had you: my cyber friends. A couple of whom are very good friends in real life too. I needed this space where I could talk, open my heart and I knew, I always knew I would have gotten the support, the comfort, the kind words. Mike has always been extremely kind, but never capable of sitting down with me and listen to my broken soul. Or better, he listened. Never had anything to say back. That's just not what we do. And for 12 years I think I was ok with this, I had my friends, I had you, I had my many projects. Oliver, the first years, Martina, her first years... we are busy, not much time to think, to observe and take stock. We always had something to do around the house, holidays to plan. I mostly planned everything, Mike very happy to go along (most of the time) and me happy to do the planning.

I know things changed early this year. Or better, they didn't change at all, I just suddenly saw the situation differently.

As I started looking for a job somewhere else, Mike was not there at all for me. Not a word like...ever. No plans, dreams or even curiosity. Surely he saw how impossible the working environment had become for me, surely he must have known I am not the kind of person that just complains about things. I would have acted. And I did. On my own. I wrote in May how he suddenly had a major display of emotions (all negatives) and that for me was a turning point. The turning point. One of those you remember forever. If my feelings had been tested up till that point, there was when something broke. It's not the job hunting, or the event itself, it's how obviously incapable we are of talking to one another. I did not see that coming at all. Not only that, but on that occasion I absolutely did not share nor I understood his feelings. We are scientists, it's in our nature to have a curious attitude, to love new things, to discover. I realised I would be much better off on my own in my adventure. Clearly the children are a significant factor. I am not doing anything rushed only because of them.

I love him, I will always love him. I just wish I was free and love him from afar, like I love my parents. I'd like to be free to do my things without thinking "oh I better let him know this or the other" and it's always only functional. I am not even mentioning my excitement about starting new things, setting up a new lab, new collaborations, new projects. He never asks of course, but also he is always going to be lukewarm no matter what we say/do.

It could totally be me. In fact I think it is me. I tend to get bored. I'm amazed I only noticed it now after 12 years together. With my first husband it took about 4 years total time. Clearly we had no children, it was so much easier to just pack up and go. And we stayed very good friends (if we ever were friends, again we had zero in common, zero conversation, at least with Mike we have the science in common if not so much the emotional connection) we are still in touch for birthdays etc 14 years after splitting up. How do I pick these people? Am I so so blind that I don't see macroscopic stuff like the fact that if I have a concern as irrational as it may be I do not feel understood by my partner? My mom always mentioned how strange it was that Mike had barely any contact with his own family bar the mandatory sunday phone call. And I was getting very much uptight about it answering that the fact that they were less attached didn't mean they didn't love each other. This still stands. I mean...maybe the major thing was when he didn't go home last Christmas when he was told his mother had days to live....I think he loved her. Is that the way I want to be loved? Most definitely not. Can we work on this as a couple? I doubt it. He has not changed, I have.

I need new emotions, new everything. And the children are great, they will always bring something new, it's such an amazing thing seeing the world through their eyes. Now I just have to find a way to move forward, and do the least amount of damage.
As ever, thank you so so much for your shoulders, I desperately need them.