The elephants on my chest

By Mir
January 7, 2012

Oh, hello. You know what’s awesome? Being the sort of person who is prone to psychosomatic illness. Now, a lot of people think that “psychosomatic” means “faked,” but in fact it means real physical illness that just happens to be caused or aggravated by mental factors such as stress.

If they gave grades in psychosomatic maladies, I would get an A+, as well as comments like, “Really gives it her all!” and “Rarely do I see this sort of dedication.”

When I made it through our two-week-long tour of illness, stress, and family dysfunction over the holidays with nary a sniffle, I was set to declare myself champion of staying healthy. Then we came home, I did ten loads of laundry, and promptly came down with a miserable chest cold. Whoops.

Fortunately, the hits kept on coming, with several dreadful pieces of news arriving in the last week. I figure I should be on life support by February.

Ohhhhh, I’m joking! We all know I only get just sick enough to be miserable, but ultimately this whole “sense of responsibility” thing keeps me, I dunno, running carpool and handing out allowance and stuff. The kids need me! I think. Sometimes. Well, occasionally, anyway.

So my asthma’s kind of kicked up, and that makes me feel alternately about 5 and 95. It’s hard to explain; having spent a childhood with severe asthma means every time it flares, now (because most of the time, I’m fine), it kind of brings me right back to those memories. And then, on the other hand, I feel like a wheezy old geezer. Good times.

We all know the best way to relieve yourself of psychosomatic illness is lots of fluids, rest, Vitamin C, and working out the stress which caused/exacerbated the problem in the first place. OH HA HA HA. Me, I like to work out my stress RIGHT HERE, using the time-honored tradition of rambling endless about my delicate feelings and unique thoughts. I talk, you metaphorically pat me on the head (or tell me I’m crazy), it’s all very cathartic, and then we all move on with our lives.

In this case, unfortunately, I feel sort of blocked and doomed. You know, because I’m the optimistic sort.

Of the two issues currently weighing heavily on my heart (and, apparently, my lungs), one cannot be discussed yet because I know things Other People don’t yet know, and I’ve agreed that it’s not my place to go blabbing until everyone involved has Been Informed. In theory, I am perfectly okay with that. In practice, I want to throw myself down on ye olde blog, here, and tell you what’s going on and cry and wail and beat my fists and be done with it. But I can’t. Yet. I guess I’ll just continue being sick for another week or so until I can.

The second issue just wanders into that treacherous minefield of No Matter How Much I Worry About My Teenager, Some Of Her Stuff Is Just Her Own Stuff. Curse her and her autonomous life! Except don’t, because God, I love that kid. I love her to pieces and like 99% of the teenagers in middle school, she currently believes that no one really knows her or loves her. I’m in uncharted waters here, people. I never know whether to cuddle her and feed her ice cream or just smack her upside the head. Sometimes I do both simultaneously, but that tends to result in ice cream on the couch. Also sobbing. Very messy.

[Of course, there’s a third, smaller elephant as well, though I’m happy to expose it to everyone just so that we can all point and laugh and acknowledge that yes, if my life was written as a work of fiction, it would be criticized as being too ridiculous to be believable. (Truth is always stranger than fiction. ALWAYS.) This is probably not a contributing factor in my current illness, really, but WHO KNOWS. Hey, remember how over two months ago our new deck project began and I was all “LA LA LA THIS WON’T TAKE LONG” and I was happy because it was our regular contractor and not the yahoos who did our fence? Well, it wasn’t ALL done until just before the holidays, while we were gone, because the wood was too wet to paint and stain, and blah blah blah, DO NOT WORRY, ALL IS WELL, and we came home and deck was done and it was… okay. Not great. There are a few small issues, but those will be dealt with. We were feeling pretty good, really. Which is probably why I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when the building inspector showed up this week while I was schlumping around in my bathrobe and stuffed an ominous pink citation sheet underneath our building permit. That’s right: Our brand new deck which was almost 3 months in the making just failed inspection. (The contractor says, “Don’t worry!” Well, then.)]

So that’s where I am right now. This too shall pass; I know. It’s the “waiting for it to pass” part I’m not so good at.

They should make a Vicks Vapo Rub that SOLVES ALL YOUR PROBLEMS. Someone get on that, wouldja? I’m gonna go drink some tea.


  1. Nelson's Mama

    Middle school sucks…plain and simple, and I truly believe it’s worse now than it was in my day. It’s been quite interesting, I’m part of a group of friends and my two daughters are the first to run the gauntlet of middle school – I didn’t any sympathy from them when we’d gather in the various kitchens with our wine glasses. Now that their girls are enduring those same trials, things sure look different and I don’t look like the same crazy, over-dramatic mama.

    I didn’t like wishing those years away, but I was also ready for my girls to begin high school, where thankfully some of that crap has been better.

    Hang in there, friend.

  2. Karen R.

    Awww, Mir. It really, really does get better. Teenagers are not compatible with other life forms, though they do have their positive moments. I hope that everything that is going on in your life works out for the best, and that your sofa survives the ice cream spills.

  3. Stephanie

    I’m sorry for everything you’re dealing with, Mir. I was just thinking, though…remember when our babies were babies? Things were “not so ok” for you, then they got a lot harder, then you and Otto got together, and the rest is history. :) Life is just one big cycle of good, bad and whatever else, over and over. I know I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the stuff you’ve had to, so I’m definitely not speaking to your situation with any form of real understanding. I’m just trying to help you remember that things change and “this too shall pass”. :)

  4. Mary Fran

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Middle school does just plain suck. I hope things turn around for the better, soon!

  5. parodie

    I get sick when I stop for a vacation too (or for added points, when I get home from a stressful vacation). Some might argue it’s psychosomatic but I don’t know what they’re talking about – my life is lovely and I AM NOT STRESSED. Much. Ahem.

  6. RuthWells

    Screw the tea. You need tequila.

    I wish I could help….

  7. Susie

    You’re not alone in getting what I tend to refer to as Post Adrenaline Death- at just the wrong time, or just after a Big Hard Thing, there is the inevitable cold, bronchitis, sinus infection, or other squick that comes along to knock us off our collective rocker. I can’t speak to the teenager yet- my Buggy Buddy is a mere five months. General hugs and shared pot of fruit herbal tea.

  8. Lucinda

    Middle school is tough and I’m discovering raising a daughter is damn hard too. Combine the two and I’m pretty sure that’s a recipe for lots of margaritas. So fire up the blender for the next year or two and I’m sure you will be just fine. Seriously, I feel for you as I read your blog in anticipation of what I will be facing the in the next few years.

  9. Chuck

    Good luck with all the issues! And hope you are feeling better soon.

  10. dgm

    Would it help Chickadee to work out her own stuff by having her write a little bit (say, three pages) daily, not to produce something creative but to just get things out and organize her thoughts? Or if writing’s not her thing, some other meditative outlet (like boxing) (haha) (although possibly boxing)? My 13 year old survived middle school in part through writing a lot and drawing comics, and reading books like this, made her feel like maybe she wasn’t such a weirdo after all, or that even if she was she should own it. She’s in high school now, young for her grade, but I’m grateful she came through middle school relatively unscathed. Hugs to you and your teen!

  11. Birchsprite

    Sherry… Good for colds and general January gloominess, teenage angst for parents, undisclosed familial issues and general blahhness. I prescribe 3 glasses ( preferably a dry oleroso) followed by a really good square of decent chocolate. And a big hug.

  12. Megan

    Blech. Also ugh.

    Well, that was helpful, wasn’t it! If one MUST have stress illnesses I have never understood why they can’t be the nice, have to stay in bed with a good book but only feel a bit tired and not really ill, type. Stress plus wheezy is just mean!

  13. Jessica

    Just curious: Did you ever receive a nickname such as “Jinx” (me) or “Murphy’s Law” (a friend I met last semester when I went back to school)? It was a very interesting day when, midway through the semester, things just weren’t going well in our engineering lab for us. That was the day we discovered that Jinx had just met Murphy’s Law, which pretty much explained everything.


    That said, I hope things clear up (physically and in life) soon!

  14. Navhelowife

    When Dante wrote the Inferno, he kinda forgot about the Middle School circle of Hell. Really, I think it is the true 9th circle of Hell. High School is hard, but the Middle school years are relentless. I currently have two children in middle school and one in high school.

    Oh, and I am so wishing we had a Hippie school for #2 of my 3 kids.

    Hope your elephants all wander off in search of some yummy peanuts or something…

  15. mar

    I’m with the posters above – middle school sux. Period. The good news is that by high school, things even out socially, etc. – they’ve found their group of “peeps”, they figure out that Mom and Dad aren’t going to remind them of every homework assignment any more, etc. High school becomes infinitely easier, in comparison. At the moment, I’m not enjoying the angry, angsty teenager that testosterone has wrought upon our house – but I still know that this has been better than middle school, for sure!

    Patience and ice cream to you …

  16. Tenessa

    Waitwaitwaitwait. WAIT! Are you saying Vicks Vapo Rub DOESN’T fix everything? shit.

  17. Daisy

    One of my favorite parts about teaching middle school is this: sending the kids home.

    Just kidding. As for not knowing whether to cuddle or ignore, feed or starve, take some relief in the fact that Chickie doesn’t know what she wants, either.Does that help? No, I didn’t think so. Darn.

  18. Sassy Apple

    To quote Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), we are ‘kindred spirits.’ Psychosomatic illness, childhood asthma that flares up during a cold and a deep and abiding love for Vicks….not to mention a neurotic pound puppy, I don’t have children, but like Daisy, I do teach Middle School. So, to clarify, I feel your pain.

  19. Katherine

    I’m very grateful to Sassy and Daisy and all other middle school teachers. Most especially those teachers who really can connect with middle school kids. I’m also grateful to have boys at the moment – one in HS the other in middle school. Much less drama than from the girls, ESP since neither have girlfriends.

    Hope you feel better soon Mir. I prescribe chocolate and an evening with Otto.

  20. elz

    You drink tea, I’ll just be drinking for you. Yeesh.

  21. mamaspeak

    Middle school sux. It did when we went, it does now that our (your, mine are younger,) kids are there & it still will when it’s time for the grandkids to go. It is because of middle school that I think people who send their kids to boarding school were on to something. And that’s based on my personal experience from BEING in middle school. I can hardly wait for the drama that awaits me w/two girls.
    Vics Vaporub doesn’t solve all your problems, but those Nyquil commercials show the people taking it IN BED bc you pretty much pass out right after you take it. If you’re not going to start downing margaritas I prescribe Nyquil. Yeah, it’s a little more alcohol than a margarita, but the hangover is shorter. ;-)
    I suspect we are suffering the January Blahs too. Instead of being sick, our house is falling apart; water pipes on Monday & Tuesday, Heater on Thursday & Friday. (Heater is working now, but isn’t turning off. So yeah, there’s that.)

  22. Reb

    Ouch, you poor thing. I prescribe chocolate. And mulled wine.

  23. addy

    Yes MIddle School SUX – absolutely, and without prejudice! It will pass really. Have her put down the ice cream before you smack her. Saves on spills. It gets kinda sorta easier as they age – though you will age much faster.

  24. g~

    So what you’re saying is, I can avoid all of this upcoming nonsense by (in the future) sending my 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter to a quality European boarding school? And never engaging in home repair?
    Awesome. Will inform husband we need to start looking for “Active Adult” condos on the beach immediately.

  25. Brigitte

    There, there, my sweet flower.

  26. Arnebya

    I’m in the first year of middle school w/the sixth grader. Fun. Times. I am currently vacillating between “come, let’s snuggle and watch a movie” and shaking the shi…shaking her.

    Also, for what it’s worth (which, I realize in the grand scheme of things, is zippo), I’m squarely rooted in the “waiting for it to pass” = UNABLE department. I hope things calm down for you soon and that you’re feeling better as well. I’ve got something lingering in my chest as well: the cough derived from the pits, bowels, and underbelly of absolute hell. It’s annual, actualy; right around the holidays it hits. I call it the consumption. Dun dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun.

  27. Celeste

    A few weeks ago I made the very happy discovery that you can buy Puffs tissues embedded with Vicks !!!

    And FWIW, thank you for sharing your angst. It makes me feel like it’s not just me that struggles, and hurts when she has an unhappy kid. My high school freshman girl is not enjoying high school and I just don’t know what to do to make things better. Middle school was no picnic but I really thought HS would be better.

  28. Chris

    That really sucks about the deck! It will probably get through in the end!

    I am looking for that new Vick’s stuff as well…

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