I have noticed an uptick in irritation in the last few weeks. I wake up crabby and spend the whole day trying to moderate that and not kill people. Last night was the last straw. My entire dream world was full of frustration: I was at my ex’s house and couldn’t leave because my shoes were gone; I was picking up my daughter from the playground and she kept running away from me; we finally got to the car and it had been stolen; we took a cab home and then I realized that my phone was also stolen––someone had slipped a fake into my pocket so I wouldn’t notice. My coping used up, I vented with a primal scream, which woke me up.

Yesterday I learned a new term: FHB. It stands for Family Hold Back, and it’s a code word used when visitors arrive and you don’t have enough food to share. Someone mumbles “FHB”, and the family members know to take less or very little at the meal to allow enough for the visitors.

I think I am currently under the spell of chronic Female Hold Back. It’s a lifelong disabling condition, where women learn to always take care of others first. It leaves no time, personal space, or energy for the woman––no place to recharge. It often results in fatigue, resentment, depression, and loss of self. I won’t go into the cultural factors that create it. They are numerous and pervasive.

This winter was my first single-parenting break in almost 25 years, and I thrived. A week ago, my 19 year-old ADHD child moved back into my small home with me for the summer. Now I am right back to my old FHB patterns. With awareness, which is better than being blind to it. But still.

I love my daughter immensely. I need to figure out how to love myself at least as much.