If you've ever taken the time to casually page through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM-IV (and if you've got a lot of time on your hands, the DSM-V just came out) you will begin to suspect that every one of us, at some point in our lives, could reasonably have exhibited a certifiable psychiatric disorder. Fortunately for our medical histories, you must suffer symptoms over a prolonged period of time before the condition gets recorded as a diagnosis. You're not going to be diagnosed depressed if you're down in the dumps for a week about your team losing the playoffs. But think about where your emotions have taken you over the years. Was there a time your brother ate all your See's white chocolate bark so you hid all your Halloween candy in different locations around the house? (Paranoid.) Ever get a perm in Junior High and refuse to go out with your friends for a month? (Avoidant.) How about the raging jealousy you felt when your best friend admitted she had a crush on the same geeky guy you did so you threw a fit on the dance floor hoping your "passion" would appear devastatingly attractive? (Histrionic.)
We've all been there, done some of that. A lot of us are still trying to parse our emotional response to what happens in our day to day lives. I know I am, though thankfully it takes up a lot less mental energy than when I was younger (partially because I'm trying to get through my backlog of New Yorkers and I can't perseverate and read at the same time). But I was pondering recently how pathetic it was the night before that I hadn't fixed anything for dinner and was drinking a second glass of wine before I'd finished microwaving the leftovers. Z's toys were scattered about the empty living room and I was "catching up" on Facebook back to 2011. Hmmm, I thought. This is not normal.
You may think there are a lot of reasons why I can reasonably be expected to have Adjustment Disorder. I've moved to another country far away from family and friends, I'm driving on the left side of the road with a MANUAL transmission in my left hand. I'm pissed that I can't find fresh kale or chard. And I don't really give a fig about an heir to the British throne. It doesn't matter that I live in an idyllic town with great neighbors and a fruiting cherry tree in my front yard. There's doesn't have to be a logical reason behind what someone perceives to be stressful. As the definition of Adjustment Disorder states:
"The objective nature of the stressor, however, is of secondary importance. Stressors' most crucial link to their pathogenic potential is their perception by the patient as stressful. The presence of a causal stressor is essential before a diagnosis of adjustment disorder can be made"
This is an incredibly generous definition of what can be interpreted as pathology. In other words, if it stresses you out, it's a stressor even if it's the melodic church bells ringing every single half hour. My stessor isn't living in an empty house or having to ask everyone to repeat what they just said because I can't understand our common language. My stressor is BEING A STAY AT HOME MOM. And since this is what I perceive to be true, it therefore has a "pathogenic potential."
What I haven't been doing, which my reasonable SAHM's have figured out, is that you need to find activities that will take your child off your hands for a few hours so you can only resent yourself if you fritter away your down time instead of blaming your kid.
So I went to the leisure center to sign Z up for swimming lessons.
"How long are the lessons? "
"A half hour."
"Seriously? I can't even finish one New Yorker article in that amount of time!"
Then I found Willows Farm. This place is kid Nirvana. Pedal dump trucks, bouncy slides, tractor rides, obstacle courses, swings, nerf ball guns, pneumatic "pigs" that grunt, belch and poop when you feed them rubber balls, and lots of real animals to feed if they're lucky enough to get noticed. They have ALL DAY summer camps. Of course I signed Z up.
It would be nice if Z were old enough to read so we could lose ourselves in words together, or he could tolerate big British museums. Though there are advantages to having an older kid 24/7 during the summer, I wouldn't want to miss a minute of his right-now self, the one that is constantly coming up with new things to say, even if those words are defiant, but is also quick to hug and ask, "Did I tell you I love you today?" He'll get there. All in all I think we're adjusting pretty well and to call this a disorder seems akin to calling life a disease. I may not feel great all the time and we may need to eat out a bit more often. But I plan on having a lot of fun while adjusting.