Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Then and now

6 1/2 years ago I visited Mexico for the first time as a newlywed. I had been married for less than 2 months when my mother-in-law suffered a massive stroke. We dropped everything and flew down. Then, Mexico was an amazing place. Truly awesome. Despite the somber reason for visiting, I found everything beautiful and wonderful. I met my inlaws, most of whom I liked. We arrived very late September 15th, so my first real day in Mexico consisted of us being delayed on the way to the hospital by a parade for Mexico's independence day. Watching the little girls in their tradition adalita dresses and green, white, and red bows in their hair made me smile. Walking to the taco stands was an adventure. Strolling around Central was a daily pastime I enjoyed. My visit lasted 1 month, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it (the highlight being when I discovered I was pregnant when every doctor I had ever seen had told me that was impossible!).

One thing sticks out though. I had walked with my husband daily to Romeral to go to the super. One day he was out with friends that he hadn't seen in years, and I was bored at home. No big deal, I knew the way to the super. I could walk there and pick up a snack. I was excited about my time alone in this fascinating new place. As I walked I waved and said "Buenos Tardes", as I had been taught, to all those I passed. I was happy. However, when I returned to the house, it was a very different feeling I experienced. My husband was not happy. He had returned to his sister telling him that his young, white American wife with limited Spanish, had taken a walk on her own. He was scared out of his mind. He kept telling me all the horrible things that could have happened to me, even in our own little colonia. This was 6 1/2 years ago, before the "cartel issues" started. I know that he had my well-being in mind. What he forgot (we'd only been married 2 months though, so completely understandable) is that I am bipolar, have OCD, and panic disorder. I'm already prone to what seems to others as completely irrational fear.

Fast forward almost 4 years. We had just moved to Mexico and my husband was doing his best to fill the protective role. This time, I'm more scared of Mexico. I've seen the news, and combined with the feelings that I left Mexico with (thanks to one small isolated event that most would have put out of their mind in 3 years), I've come back paranoid and seeing danger in everyone. My husband, with the best of intentions, only increases that feeling with his need to keep me and his then 2 year old child safe and sheltered. He doesn't know what has changed or is going on in his city, and he fears the worst. For the next 2 years, if I even walk to the little tienda on the corner of our street, I'm not allowed to go unaccompanied. I learn to fall asleep with a cell phone with my brother in law's (lives next door) phone number already loaded and all I have to do is press talk. Really though, that's silly. What's he gonna do? Break down my door armed with a loaded squirt gun? Or, maybe he'll get his goat to break down the wall dividing our houses because a fly flew past my head and I twitched and hit call. I developed a habit of waking up and doing the "2 am stalk" through the house with a butcher knife because the dog sneezed.

Now we've been here 3 years. My husband has become frustrated at my lack of independence. I am frustrated at my inability to handle the smallest thing outside the house without dissolving into a puddle of fear. My eldest daughter started Kinder this year. For the first month, I was a nervous wreck walking her to school with my toddler each morning on my own. I still fight a burst of unreasoned panic when I open my front door to push the stroller out each morning. I still have only managed to leave the house for something non-school related on my own once. The 4 calls from my husband to make sure I was OK did not help. Yes, things are scary. Yes, it's not easy. But I know, in my head, that I am capable of taking care of myself and the children on my own. It's my emotions I can't control. I don't need to fight some non-existent stranger who is out to murder the stupid American. I'm too busy fighting myself.

Friday I go for an interview for a big private school teaching English. My therapist's sister happens to be in charge of hiring, and my therapist got me the interview. This has me paralyzed. Yes, Friday my husband will take me to the interview. The interviewer speaks English, so I am confident in my abilities to wow her. That's not what scares me. What scares me is "What if I actually get the job?". Goodness knows we could use the money. That's not the issue. I could easily arrange child-care for my toddler and get someone to walk my eldest to school; that's not a problem. The thought of getting there, multiple buses, on my own, possibly in the morning when it's still dark, THAT scares me. Getting home, making it on my own, THAT scares me. All this on top of the usual "Will I do well in this job?". On top of worries that, "what if I don't speak enough Spanish? What if it's older children or adults that I'm not used to dealing with? What about the politics in a job that are difficult enough to manage in my native language but now will also involve a language that I'm not proficient enough in? What if I walk into the interview and fall on my face and my pants rip and the entire school body sees my underwear?"

All these questions have been rumbling in my brain the last few days. It's keeping me up at nights, leaving me a jumpy, snappy mess in the mornings. I'm afraid that this is going to leave me in such a mess that I blow my chance at independence. My chance to prove to myself I can do it. And our chance to finally make headway in this uphill battle for financial survival that we've been fighting ever since we moved here 3 years and 4 days and 20 hours ago. It is time for me to take that step out of my comfort zone. And I know I don't do it alone. I have a great support system. My husband is there, I have inlaws who will watch over my children, I have a great therapist, but most of all, I CAN DO THIS! Now if I could get my hands on some duct tape and Xanax to shut up the irrational voice in my head, I would be set.

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