Clinging and Hope

I cling to the edge of the cliff.  The fingers of Darkness and Despair curl around my ankles, weighing me down.  The continual  rain soaks my clothing, adding to the weight; it makes it harder to hold on. 

I dread the end of summer.  Even as the days shorten and cool, I feel myself starting to wither…..just like my garden. 

I could really use the sunshine and a beach, right about now. 

It’s hard.  I’m exhausted.  My boys are incredibly difficult right now.  We’re long beyond the October crash……this must be the November burn. Crash and Burn!

I’m sick of saying, “It’s hard.  I’m exhausted.” I want desperately to connect and yet…I have nothing.  I have zero energy to attempt connection.  But without connection, I’m alone.  So which is it…… it’s a losing battle.  

Sometimes I feel that if I could explain what my life is like that you might get it…..But I’m realizing that unless you live it, you won’t fully understand it. I share bits and pieces but never the whole….it would be too much to handle.  I know this because it’s too much to handle.

There is a certain amount of grieving.  Grieving normalcy…..But mostly there is just soul crushing exhaustion.  It’s like a cloud of nothingness with vague wisps of sadness and loneliness woven throughout.
I love my children and I hate how difficult they are.  

Autism, ADHD, Anxiety…..Even though they are labels given to two of my boys, our entire family is deeply effected.

There is so much chaos.  I feel like I’m constantly drowning.  I manage to grab small breaths of air….never enough to breathe deeply and the waves crash consistently enough that I’m left in a constant state of  panic.  

There’s only so much space for panic and my two boys seem to have the corner on that market.  Too often when I feel the panic rising, I stuff it back down with a shallow breath.  As if I could control it….

There is so much guilt and shame and yet…..that’s one good thing about exhaustion…..somehow you can’t muster the energy to hold onto the guilt and shame.  You feel it and it makes you feel dirty and worthless; but it’s too heavy to carry and there’s too much to be done….

So you drop it like most of the other balls you drop on a daily basis…..

You cling to the edge of the cliff and hope……you hope that you make it through another day.  You hope that tomorrow will be better.  You cling to the hope that seasons change and that this dark and gloomy season will once again give way to sunshine.  You pray for wisdom, strength, and patience.  

You pray for your kids to just hurry up and fall asleep so you can have a moment to breathe…..then you feel guilty….then you remember how much work there still is to do tonight and you drop the guilt as exhaustion takes over once again.

Frogs Jump – I am a Work in Progress

I am SOOOOOOOOO excited……like a giddy schoolgirl on Christmas Morning excited.

Frogs Jump Title
Click here to check out the book

Go ahead and click on the first page and it will take you to a preview of my book. It’s still not quite finished. I’ve got work, still, to finish up the cover and what I’d like to consider is my signature End Page……ha!

This process has been incredibly exhilarating and exhausting.

I am loving seeing my dreams come to life. I’ve dreamed about writing books since I was a little girl. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed and dismissed those dreams as frivolous. Anxiety, Self Condemnation and Judgment told me that I was ridiculous to even think about doing something as silly as writing books; even though I spent hours enthralled within the worlds inside my childhood books.

So, I dismissed those dreams. I pushed them down and tried to ignore the longing to “ignite wonder” in children’s minds. Over the years, I’ve written many little stories and songs….mostly for my children, about my children…..and told and sung them to my children.

Seeing this book unfolding and coming to life……it feels like I am starting to breathe after holding my breath for far too long. You know that moment when you break through the surface of the water after being under for a moment longer than you can actually stand…..

And yet, it’s terrifying and exhausting. I feel like I’m in an epic battle.

I feel determined that anxiety won’t win this battle and yet everything in me wants to go back into hiding. It feels safer there (except that whole drowning thing, doesn’t feel all that great). It’s less vulnerable to just keep things status quo. It’s hard to put yourself out there, especially when there is still a huge part of you that doesn’t really believe that you have anything worth contributing. And it’s those thoughts, that I’m determined to…..to… prevail over.

It often feels too terrifying, too exhausting, too overwhelming……to move forward. And yet, I’m holding on to the life giving moments as well and trusting that I’m ready and able to take these next steps.

I don’t even know what the next steps are….but I’m going to figure that out. I hope you’ll come along for the journey. It’s always better to do things with your friends, than to do them alone.

D-Day

If there was ever a night to allow myself an “out” this would be it.

But as I sit in my bed, listening to some trance music that Jon has playing while he codes, working on a project for a contract that he’s taken “on the side”………I don’t want to give myself the “out”.

It almost seems like that would be “too easy”….let me escape into some dumb show or waste more hours on my phone….which is what I did while waiting for Jeremy to finish counseling, which also happens to be when I locked myself out of the van. Would you like to hear that story? I sure hope you said yes…..

You see, we have two sets of keys for the van….my set which has the key fob attached and Jon’s set which only has a key. I ALWAYS hang my keys up on the key hook close to the front door….that way I ALWAYS know where they are. (The inference here – in case you didn’t catch it, is that keys get lost in our house, but not by me…) The only time I ever “lose my keys” , is when someone else uses them and doesn’t put them on the hook when they walk in the door.

So tonight when I went to take Jeremy to his counseling appointment…they were not on the hook, as it turns out, Geli had inadvertently taken them with her to my sister’s house when she left to go babysit. (She’s driven the van earlier in the day – totally helping me out, I might add.) Not the end of the world, cause I could just use Jon’s, right?

We drove to the appointment, got out of the van and I clicked the latch to auto-lock the doors. I paused briefly for a moment, feeling like something was weird or off; but shrugged it off and carried on. I dropped him off after connecting with his counselor and headed back out to the van….half way across the parking lot, I reached into my pocket for my key fob to unlock the doors and realized that I had Jon’s keys.

………………………….!!!!!!!!!

I panicked briefly, but quickly pulled it together and messaged Jon. While I waited for him to respond, I messaged Gelica. Fortunately, my sister’s house is not too far away from where the counselor is and Geli did in fact have my keys – which is what I had assumed – she dropped them off and YAY! I was no longer locked out, BUT….normally, I would drop a kid off and then go home for half an hour or so before coming back to do pick up…it would have been pointless to leave because I’d get home and then immediately have to turn around and come back.

So I sat in the van and wasted half an hour on my phone. So stupid…….

I’ve shared all of this lovely, ever so intriguing story because really, I’m not sure what to say about the fact that Josiah was officially diagnosed with Autism today.

Photo

It’s not unexpected. We took him to get assessed for Autism because we really did suspect that he was on the Spectrum. Having said that, its one thing to “think” and another to “know”.

Nothing about him changes. Its exactly the same as when Jeremy was diagnosed. Jeremy is Jeremy and always has been. Josiah is Josiah and always has been. Getting the diagnosis gives us common terminology to be able to discuss his particular challenges and strengths with the professionals in his life…like his teachers, for example. It affords us the ability to communicate effectively and to put plans into place to help him succeed. It also allows for funding to help him work through and learn the skills that “normal kids” pick up without being taught.

So, I’m not upset. I’m not devastated. But, it is tough to hear that your child has a neurological deficit that affects his socializing skills and abilities. He will be given lots of extra opportunity to practice and learn skills that may not come naturally, and I have no doubt that he will be a successful young boy, young man and eventually grown man. But it’s still tough to hear that he struggles, that he will struggle and that this is something legitimate. To hear that our concerns are valid…….it’s tough.

I’m still processing and I’m hoping to be able to process through it all a little more, maybe I’ll even have a moment to process some more tomorrow.

I Should Be Used To This By Now

Siah Today
Bear Boy
We have an appointment with Dr. Corina Brown at the Fraser Valley Child Development Center tomorrow morning to have Josiah assessed.

We will most definitely be asking about autism.

We pulled together all the reports we have for him so far…..He’s only 7 and yet, he’s seen a Psychologist at the Infant Mental Health Clinic at BC Childrens, OT’s through school, our Pediatrician……and we wrote our own list highlighting the areas that he struggles with or in…..

4 pages of struggles.

Josiah Issues

(not sure why but to see the page you need to clink on the link and then clink again on the link that opens.)

This journey of parenting special kids is a tough one.

I don’t know if we are going to get a diagnosis of Autism. I’d like to think that we, as parents, know something about our kids and there are SO MANY flags that go up for me when I look at this list and see this sweet kid….but I’m not the psychologist. I don’t make the diagnosis.

I do know that he’s struggling. His teacher knows that he’s struggling, but she doesn’t know how to help him.

Listing out 4 pages of “issues” and “struggles” and “deficits” is tough.

I’ve reduced Josiah to the sum of his faults.

And yet I haven’t………I know that in order to accurately present the challenges to someone, you need to talk about the hard things. The struggles…..the areas that are difficult….and you’d think that I’d be used to this by now. This is the third child that we’ve had assessed and probably the one I’m most prepared for. In every case, you go in and present the areas of greatest struggle. Because you’re not there to talk about the areas that they succeed in. You’re not there to talk about his sweet soul or his gentle, caring nature.

You’re there to talk about all the ways that fighting with his struggles sucks the soul out of you. You’re there to talk about how exhausting it is for both you and him to “live” on a daily basis. You’re there to talk about the incredible amount of effort that is required to stay one step ahead of every thought and breath so that you can avoid the inevitable meltdowns. You’re there to talk about how much effort every day is, in regards to getting dressed, eating, going to school, coming home from school, playing after school, eating after school, doing homework, eating dinner, doing chores, doing the nighttime routine, going to sleep……EVERYTHING!

And you know somewhere in yourself that parenting a child isn’t supposed to be like this….it shouldn’t be THIS MUCH EFFORT….it shouldn’t be something you dread. It shouldn’t be something that requires every ounce of strength you have and then some. There should be some space in your life left for you……….or your husband…..

But there isn’t…..

But, you can handle it….sort of….which makes you question everything you think and especially everything you wrote down. Maybe you are just blowing it out of proportion. Maybe you are making it seem worse than it actually is, and just then……..your child melts down……..and you take a huge breathe and push away the panic that threatens to choke you. You ever so calmly, and with so much more grace than you feel, respond to the situation…….

The second, third, fourth guessing is what does me in…..

I’m taking my 7 year old in for an assessment. He’s already been seen at BC Children’s when he was 5. And we know that there are deficits in his social development. He is a lovely, sweet boy. He is also struggling. This is not just about me. This is about getting him the help that he needs. And if we benefit because he gets that help…..that’s a good thing right?

I should be used to this by now. But I’m not. It’s hard. It’s hard to see your child struggling. It’s hard to face the areas that your child is struggling, head on. It’s hard.

One more day and then it’s all out of our hands………..I just need to keep breathing.

It’s hard.

A Fairly Regular Week Around Here.

IMG_9079I have these brief moments of clarity. Unfortunately, they are clouded by the fog of chaos and exhaustion that is my life these days.

This past week has been particularly trying and yet, it’s really not any different than any other week around here.

Jeremy had an epic meltdown on Monday night….what that means is that he fought against everything we said and needed and asked him to do starting at 3:30pm. It exploded at 6:30pm, with him huddled in a sobbing, screaming ball on the kitchen floor, begging us to leave him alone and to not touch him. All of this while trying to get the two little boys through their evening chores and headed up to bed……which is it’s own gong show of happiness. We finally got Jer settled enough. He had a great chat with Jon and was able to clearly speak of what was going on for him. It’s just too bad that it took 3 hours of intense energy and chaos to get us to that place.

Tuesday morning (and most every morning) involved a great deal of wrangling to get Josiah to school. He has a lot of anxiety and getting him to school in the mornings involves a tremendous amount of creative thinking and fast talking to movitvate and challenge him to actually make it to school. Tuesday afternoon, I picked Siah up from school and took him, Judah and Xandra to our family Dr. Siah has a few warts on his hands and has been getting them frozen off. He had a massive anxiety attack thinking about getting them frozen off and ended up making himself sick in the waiting room of the Dr.s office. He puked 4 different times and managed to hit the garbage can for 2 of those…..the other 2 required a lot of paper towels and a fair amount of apologizing on my part. I finally promised him that we would just “show” the Dr his warts and that I wouldn’t make him get freezing. After that, he didn’t puke any more and miraculously recovered…..no more puking that evening and he ate well and had no issues. I HATE ANXIETY!!!!!

Wednesday was a quiet day…..I remember thinking how weird and bizarre it was to not have anything crazy going on. Jon did have to work on his second job that evening so I solo parented the bedtime routine and it’s just not as fun as it sounds like it could be.

Thursday was a crazy day. Last week I got a call on Tuesday asking if we could come in to the orthopedic clinic on Thursday for an appt with Dr. Pike – an orthopedic surgeon – who does both pediatric and regular orthopedic care. He specializes in arms, shoulders, wrists, hands……This is the surgeon who will follow Geli into adulthood. I couldn’t make the appt for last Thursday because all the appts are in the afternoon on Thursday’s. This means that I have to arrange pick up from school for Josiah and babysitting for Judah. Fortunately, my mom was able to come this week and watch Judah and pick up Siah. Before my mom got to my house, I managed to tidy the house, do the laundry, clean the kitchen, make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for an after school snack, put together a roast beef for my mom to throw in for dinner, and a quick note with pertinent details for my mom regarding that afternoon.

I was exhausted before even leaving the house. I remember thinking to myself,

“Why don’t I have any help?” That was quickly followed by,
“I try to do it all by myself so that I’m not a bother for anyone.” Which was followed up with,
“But I’m one breath away from breaking…..I can’t do all of this.” And then,
“Why do you try to do it all by yourself?”
“Because I don’t feel that I’m worth……….. bothering people.”

I had a lot more thoughts, but that one hit me pretty hard. I needed to leave for the hospital so we wouldn’t be late and so I filed that thought for later….

Angelica’s appointment was for 1pm and I was really hoping that we’d be quickly in an out before traffic started. There was a surgery that called the dr away just before he came to see us….which means that our quick appointment turned into a 2 hour affair. Which is not bad for “hospital time”.

The long and the short of that appointment, is that Angelica will definitely need surgery. If fact, her shoulder is bad enough that if she was in pain, they’d replace it now. The surgeon said it was “really ugly.” Once again, the comment we keep hearing is, “You’re not in any pain?” It looks bad enough that they expect she should be in a lot more pain than she is. We are so incredibly thankful that she is not in pain. And because she is not in pain, we can put off replacement surgery. She will most likely be looking at both a shoulder replacement and an elbow replacement but it could be a while, yet. This is great news and frustrating, at the same time. Geli has limited mobility in her shoulder and her elbow has a short range of motion. It doesn’t fully extend and won’t fully contract either. She has learned to compensate by reaching with her left arm if something is high above her or by using her right arm, if she needs to extend her arm straight out. It’s still awkward, but we choose to be thankful that she is alive and has both arms to be able to use. We are incredibly thankful that she is not in pain because living with constant physical pain is a horrible, horrible thing to have to do.

We finally headed home…..arriving just in time for me to pick up Jeremy and take him to a counseling appointment. He had his appointment from 5-6pm. I dropped him off, connected with his counselor about a few issues and insights from that week and headed back home to grab a bite to eat before I headed back to pick him up.

His counselor is so kind and thoughtful; and asked how I was doing. Truthfully, I don’t even want to answer that question because I am not doing well. I think I hit breaking point a long time ago and I’m desperately hanging onto the belief that this is a season and it, too, will pass…..I’m just very tired of existing. I’m very tired of all the issues. It’s been a very long time of chaos and conflict; and I’m not so sure I see it ending anytime soon. I gave her a pat answer….and then I answered truthfully and then I cried; then I pulled myself together and took Jeremy home to finish off the evening.

Friday morning brought it’s routine school related challenges although this time, it was Judah who decided to have a flip out. He did not want to go to “school”. He wanted to stay with me. He was clingy and whiney and so very unlike him. He typically fusses about not wanting to go to school…..I think mostly because that’s what Siah does and it must seem like that’s just what you are supposed to do in the mornings……but when we get to school, he goes in and is so happy to see his teachers and friends. He kisses and hugs me and heads off for the day without a second glance. He was SO UPSET. It took about 15 minutes to settle him and I was really confused about why he was doing this…..I even questioned just taking him home with me, because it was so very out of character for him.

Friday afternoon, I picked up Judah from preschool and then picked up Siah. Siah’s desk looks like a recycling bin. It is so full of random bits of paper, junk and garbage. I go in about once a month to scrape his desk out. I put all his pencils and crayons back into his pencil box and stack his duotangs and exercise books. I throw out all the garbage and collect the “treasures” to take them home. He struggles with the “messing with” of his treasures and would just rather live in the chaos – on the best of days – Friday was not one of the best days……..

He melted down in the classroom. Tears, yelling, crying, pleading…..he was anxious that if he brought the 500 origami creations home that they would get destroyed or lost or somehow messed up. He just wanted to leave them at school, but when your collection is shoe box sized and stuffed in your desk…..it just needs to come home. We finally managed to get his desk tidied; the creations in an actual shoe box and him out the door. The real fun started once we got in the van and he refused to put his seat belt on because he “HAD” to take the box of origami back into the school. He screamed at Judah for fussing at him. He screamed at me for everything. So much yelling and pleading; and zero grasp of the reality that it was not going to happen. It took 15 minutes. I have it on video. I’ve been recording “events” for when we go for his assessment at the end of February. It’s so much more than just a normal upset or frustration.

By the time I finally got him calmed down enough and we headed home, I was exhausted…done. We fed the kids frozen pizza (cooked, obviously) and sat and watched videos.

Saturday was the anniversary of Nathaniel’s birth and death and was just a low key – stay at home day. I’m ever so thankful that the kids held themselves mostly together.

This is not really an “out of the ordinary” week. Maybe the fact that I don’t have an actual “incident” to report for Wednesday or Saturday might make it memorable in a positive way….but it all feels less than positive.

And the biggest hit for me this week….bigger than Jeremy’s meltdown, bigger than Judah’s flip out, bigger than imminent surgery, bigger even than Josiah’s epic flipout…..is that fact that I don’t feel worthy.

I feel worth less…..

It’s a pretty crappy feeling.

Why?
Why do I feel like this?
Why do I see myself as worth less than others?
Why?

I don’t know…..but I think I need to figure that out.

What does THAT even mean?

I mentioned that I felt depressed about my life yesterday.

I thought I might take a moment to clarify what exactly that looks like, feels like and means to me.

I ran into someone yesterday who had read yesterday’s post and gently asked me how I was doing. I threw something back at them saying that I was ok and that I was just keeping on, keeping on.

Anxiety speaking here: I’m not sure if they were expecting me to be a huge mess of tears, or if they were thinking that I’d be fragile, or really off, or shaken, or…..maybe they were thinking none of the above and that’s just the anxiety saying that they were “thinking” or “expecting” something.

Regardless, it got me thinking….because I’ve written posts before and had people very cautiously approach me wanting to cancel a get-together that was planned because it might be too much for me, or talking to me as if I couldn’t handle things and they were not wanting to upset my delicate balance.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate people’s care and concern……NO! Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. I feel so cared for and supported and loved, when people care enough to step outside of the emotional distance that we, as humans, like to hold ourselves to and try to bridge over into my problems and stresses. It’s HUGE and I’m so grateful.

On one hand, I don’t like to appear weak, on the other hand, I don’t like to be needy, but so often I am both weak and needy……..and I’m recognizing that having a “community” or a “family” that can help to lift you up and carry you when you feel exhausted or worn down, is an incredible, INCREDIBLE thing.

When I share about feeling depressed about my life…….I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a tough place and I don’t have a clear vision as to how to move from this difficult place into a better place. I don’t like NOT KNOWING……..I like to have a plan, to be in control, to be working towards a goal, to be able to make things better……

There are somethings in my life that I cannot change. I cannot remove the emotional or physical marks that cancer has left on every person in my family. I cannot remove the anxiety that all 5 of my children seem to deal with in varying degrees, from severe and debilitating to mild. I cannot change the fact that autism is a very real, exhausting and difficult neurological disorder that we deal with, as an entire family, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I cannot change the fact that ADHD has impacted 4 of my family members intimately and the trickle down effect of that disorder effects the rest of us.

I can’t “just fix” those things. They are here. They are real. They require HUGE amounts of effort mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They affect each interpersonal relationship within my immediate family and many outside of my family.

There are moments when “the reality” of my life seems WAY. TOO. REAL…….and my options are to keep on keeping on….or give up.

I cannot give up.

I mean, I could. That was something that my counselor said to me at one point. I could give up. I could check out. I could run away or end up in a hospital somewhere…..unable to “handle” things and that it was my choice to carry on.

I think she was trying to tell me that I “held power” in my situation and that many people did/do check out and that I was doing well, in the fact that I still had the ability to CHOOSE to carry on.

I think I get what she was saying and yet……oh there is always a yet or a but, isn’t there……..I don’t feel that giving up is an option. Yes, somedays, it’s all I can do to just get up and get dressed and put my make up on……

That’s my thing…..my gimmick…..the one thing that signals to me that the show must go on….if I get up and get dressed in real clothes (not pyjama wanna-be’s) and do my hair and make up……..then I accomplish so much more. Very rarely, do I ever, stay in pyjamas and not do my hair and make up. I get “ZILCH” done on those days and I simply cannot afford to not accomplish things……

The 2.5 years of cancer treatment was brutal. It taxed me to my extreme limits as a person, and definitely as a parent. I am still not recovered from the toll that it took on me.

I find that I feel a bit like I am a hollow egg (Humpty Dumpty, if you will). I have a very thin and fragile shell and as long as things don’t shake me or bump me, I exert every bit of energy that I have to hold my broken and cracked self together. One little bump and the precariously balanced pieces start to fall. I fall apart……

Jeremy has a bad Autistic day……….BUMP!
Geli has an emotional day relating back to cancer crap………BUMP!
Josiah has an ADHD frustration flip out…….BUMP!
Judah is 3 (enough said)………BUMP!
Xani experiences extreme anxiety for unexplained reasons…….BUMP!

So many bumps……so much energy expended trying to keep all the pieces in place…..so many pieces falling…..so little left at the end of the day.

I can’t make these things go away, and so I must learn how to live and carry on and continue with pieces of myself broken and fallen apart.

Some of it will get better….or at the very least different, with time. Some of it will never go away, but the kids will grow up and learn coping skills. And my hope, my prayer, is that I do a good enough job of training these amazing blessings of mine how to deal with life’s challenges with grace and dignity; and how to keep on keeping on even when you are unsure of how to proceed and what the best course of action is…..

But………

………sometimes, the enormity of my job weighs heavy on me. Sometimes, I’m unsure how to best help these ones I love so dearly. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the emotional or physical strength to deal with “even one more issue”(…and there is always “one more issue”). And then I feel discouraged…….

We have had a few BIG BUMPS recently. Ones that I’d love to share, but it’s just not the right time…….and the added pressure and stress weighs very heavy and makes “coping” that much more difficult. And so here is where I am at today……..

I’m dressed. I have my make-up on and my hair done(sorts of, if a messy pony tail counts…). The kids are off to school, except for Geli – who is still feeling sick (Thanks to Xani for bringing home a stinking bug from New York) and Judah. I’m needing to make a list and see what I can actually get done today. I know I have a mountain (probably 8 large loads) of laundry to fold, sort and put away. I know the main floor is a disaster and the kitchen needs to get put right. If I can accomplish any (not all, but ANY……) of that before the kids come home; as well as planning dinner for Angelica’s 17th Birthday (which is today) I will consider today a success. I have LOW standards…..

So, my “feelings of depression” are an exhaustion, a feeling of uncertainty and brief moments of hopelessness, a sense of constant pressure and chaos, an insecurity of my abilities to adequately parent these amazing children who have been presented with striking challenges to overcome……it’s a little bit of acknowledging a desire for some easy days, yet not wanting to stay in a place of discontent with my life, because that helps no one. It’s a tough place. At times it’s a wonderful place…..but right now, it’s mostly a tough place.

It won’t stay that way forever. I know that I’ll feel stronger and stronger again….I always do, but it is tough.

I would encourage you to look around you and encourage each other…..it doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent by choice or by circumstance, or whether you have special needs children or a child with a long term or chronic illness, whether you have a difficult or challenging child(ren) or need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, whether you or your loved ones struggle with any kind of mental illness or disability, or whether you seem to have a fairly smooth go of things at the moment……

Be Kind.
Be Compassionate.
Be Loving.
Be Encouraging.
Be Understanding.
Be Gracious.
Be Merciful.
Be Caring.

Understand that everyone is doing their best, and while “our bests” may differ depending on our circumstances and experiences and abilities……..be gentle with each other. Your care and support may make the difference in someones life today.

Jeremy Shares on Autism

Jeremy has an INCREDIBLE Behaviour Consultant. We’ve been working with Elizabeth since 2011/2012. I cannot fully express how thankful I am to have her in our lives. She is invaluable as a support person and a resource.

We recently met to discuss progress and struggles in our journey with Autism/ADHD/Anxiety. She mentioned that she was teaching a course out at UFV and would love to have Jeremy come to either share his views on living with Autism or even just to come and audit this one class where she had invited other youth with Autism to share.

Jeremy was interested in sharing about living with Autism and so we accepted.

On Monday night, the anxiety set in and Jeremy had a hard time getting to sleep because he wasn’t sure what to expect or what would be required from him. We looked up a few things online and then I sent him off to bed with the promise that we would work on something for him to say tomorrow during our Homeschool time.

We talked a bit about himself and went through the questions that Elizabeth had sent through and came up with a paper for him to reference if he needed it.

Here is a video of him practicing at home.

We finished up school for the day and headed out to Abbotsford. We found the classroom and met up with the other teens who were also sharing. Jeremy was SO excited to meet other kids that were “Like Him”…..they Jer at UFVtalked and talked and talked. It was great to see him so relaxed and calm. He was just being himself and not “trying” to be normal.

Elizabeth had to cut the teens off….they had immediately launched into a discussion about a computer game……..and herded them into the classroom. They got settled into seats up at the front of the room and Elizabeth spoke for a bit and then invited them to share some.

I videoed some clips of Jeremy sharing. He spoke quite quietly for the first little bit, so you may need to turn your speakers up.

Jeremy was asked to share about his talents.

Sharing his thoughts about finding out that he had autism

Talking about Sensory Overload and Meltdowns

Talking about Friendship and Autism

I recognize that not everyone will want to watch multiple videos of my son talking,and that’s totally ok. I put these up here for anyone who might be interested in seeing my son, at 13 years old, sharing about his experiences with Autism and sharing how he feels about certain aspects of his life.

Moving Forward The Morning After

So I posted last night…..

I was tired and emotional and probably if those two factors had not ganged up on me….I may have filtered myself a bit more or even just made less typos…..maybe….maybe not?!?

I don’t know that this morning brought any new clarity with it.

I woke up with a killer headache……….at 5:30am.

Yah, it’s been a long day already and it’s only noon-ish. Did not get back to sleep after that. BLERGH!!!!

On a side note….It’s gorgeous outside.

That is the view to my right….

and this is my view straight ahead…..

She’s not supposed to be on the couch….but I haven’t exactly kicked her off.

It’s the last day of school before the Christmas Break….and probably my last quiet (ish) day for the next two weeks.

So, I’m taking advantage of it. I’m sitting. The house is a mess, and I made Judah pancakes for lunch. He is currently trolling Netflix….I believe Ninjago is the show of choice at this exact moment.

I’m currently staring at my Christmas Tree trying to figure out what I’m thinking, but again with the 50 million thoughts going in 50 million directions.

I had a few people send me private messages of encouragement and those were so nice to hear.

I wonder if it’s about perspective.

I’m in the middle of it all. From my position, I look around me and I see children who are unique and amazing and challenging in their own fantastic ways. I see the screaming and the bickering and the squabbling and the challenges to get them to do their chores and take care of their responsibilities. I see their shortcomings and I want to work with them to strengthen those areas while at the same time encouraging them in their strengths. I see these amazing individuals with really great hearts even in spite of all the challenges that we’ve faced individually and as a family……. But it’s a constant effort to keep these 5 bodies moving in a forward direction.

We were so isolated over the “cancer years” and before then….doing almost anything with Jeremy required HERCULEAN effort and sometimes it was easier to just not do anything. Again…..very isolating.

It is hard when you’ve had it said to your face that people can’t be friends with you because your child is too difficult. Or to hear from others that you shouldn’t subject your children to people because they are too much effort to have around and be around.

Just typing both of those down….I realize how brutal those two comments are. I mean, I know how brutal they are….I’ve lived though both of those said directly to my face and more. But I can’t imagine saying those things to someone…..EVER!!! I love children. I especially love the challenging kids. The ones that make you think and keep you on your toes. The extremely smart kids that say the most incredible things but require a little more attention and focus……I love the regular kind of kids too, but somehow, the ones that people seem annoyed with or bothered by….the ones that talk and talk and talk and talk and never shut up……I LOVE those kids. I want to go out of my way to make sure that they feel special and included and NEVER EVER a bother or an inconvenience….

I get it. I know how much effort it is. I live it…..EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Jeremy has not been the easiest child. He requires some effort. Well, he requires a lot amount of effort. So does Josiah in a different way and Judah….well, he’s a 3 year old. What 3 year old doesn’t require some attention and effort. My boys require effort……I know this. I guess, it would just feel really good to feel like others “want” to be with my kids. Do you know what I mean? I think that in spite of their particular challenges or maybe even as a result of them….that my kids……all 5 of them are pretty amazing. I’d love to feel like others felt that too and wanted to spend time with them….not cause they HAD to, but because they WANTED to.

So, to those who have said something…..THANK YOU. Really! I appreciate it more than you may ever know.

I’m not sharing this in the hopes that people will “do” something. I am just trying to unravel some of this mess inside myself. Part of that is dealing with the hurts and wounds that I have or have gotten.

I realize that I’ve been hurt and I definitely have some sore, open wounds when it comes to my kids and how they are perceived and received.

And this OBVIOUSLY colors how I hear people comment on my kids.

So the school wanting to help Siah….turns into….HE’S A PROBLEM…..which I can’t even fathom….cause he’s freaking sweet kid who can read and write and wants to please…….and then I go…WHAT….WHAT do I even do with that….

How could be he a problem…..which, when it comes down to it….that is not even the issue at all.

He is a great kid….who has some quirks and may require “some individualized strategies” to help him succeed and how do we (parents & school) as a collective team help him to achieve success?

So we met, and talked through some things and I think I have a better perspective. I think we are more on the same page than I “felt”.

Which is great.

Not that the whole things doesn’t still stress me out….but the Principal….she’s an amazing lady, encouraged me to trust them and to just “plug my nose and JUMP!”

I believe this school and these people are amazing people…..I believe they truly care about Josiah. I really do believe that they want the best for him. That they want him to succeed. And so…..I jump.

I’m scared.
I’m nervous.
I’m sure I’ll need reassurance again.

But…..

I want to trust.
I want to believe.
I want to be in “community.”

and so….

I carry on…

one step after the other…..hopefully in a forward direction. 🙂

Let’s Talk About Mental Health Issues……

I’m frustrated with the whole concept of guilt and Mental Health.

I, in no way, have all the answers; and on most days I question whether I have any answers. What I do know is that I deal with anxiety and have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that I was fearless as a child and so, I’m not exactly sure what happened, because I don’t really have any concrete memories where I wasn’t dealing with anxiety.

At least 3 of my kids deal with some level of anxiety and Jeremy is also dealing with ADHD, Executive Function Disorder, Learning Disability and Autism. All of those fall under the “Mental Health” umbrella. They all have areas of “Brain Disfunction.” In my mind, that means there are areas where the brain is not functioning in a Neuro-typical way. I do understand that there are many who don’t want autism classified as a mental health disorder because it is usually thought of as being a genetically predetermined disorder, and there is a certain amount of “shame” associated with mental illness or mental disorders.

I choose to think differently about the whole concept of Mental Health.

I deal with any physical health issues for myself or my children in a completely non-guilty manner. If myself or one of the kids has a cold, or a broken bone or some other physical ailment, I don’t feel guilty taking them in to see our Family Dr or a specialist, if needed. Why then, if myself or one of the kids are dealing with Mental Health Issues, should it be any different?

In my mind, it shouldn’t be any different at all.

If my car needs a tune up. I get it done. If my house needs a hose for the water tank, we get it done. If our clothes are in need of repair or replacement, then I take care of it. Why do we take care of our physical bodies and our belongings, but hesitate when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

We, often, hesitate to talk about it openly and freely. Sometimes we hesitate to even admit it to ourselves. It’s a tricky subject and not one that everyone understands or even cares to try to understand, but Mental Health and Mental Illness are not going anywhere.

I’m trying to raise my kids to understand that Mental Health is as important as Physical Health. It’s important to take care of your mental/emotional state; and it’s important to take care of your physical state.

If I needed insulin because my body never produced it, or it produced a very small amount……would that make me “less” in some way. Would it mean that I was broken and not as valuable or worthy as someone else who didn’t need insulin shots? So what if I need extra seratonin in my brain, for either a while or even forever……I don’t see how the two are different. What if genetically, I don’t produce as much as you do? Or what if I experienced some traumatic event in my life and the stress has negatively affected my body in such a way that I needed some help, in the form of seratonin or any other mental health drug…….why is that any different than needing insulin or any other drug.

I don’t see that it is.

In my family, there seems to be a huge history of anxiety and depression. I have also experienced a stillbirth, 4 pregnancy losses and cancer, as well as dealing with a child/children with special needs. So whether it’s genetically predispositioned or because of some life trauma…..I don’t know.

What I do know, is that being on medicine has helped “ME.” I’m not advocating that everyone needs to be on meds. Because if you can deal with your mental health issues through counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy….then awesome….but by doing that, you are still “taking care of” your mental health.

For the first time in my life, that I can remember, I feel like the inside of me matches the outside of me. It’s crazy hard to explain, but I will try. I’ve had many people not believe or understand that I was anxious (as a teen or young adult) because I seemed so confident and in control. I think that must be where my kids get it from. They seem to hold themselves (mostly) together when they are at school or church or “out” and then when they get home, they feel comfortable enough to “fall apart”.

I don’t know that I did a lot of “falling apart” but I did use “control” as a method of dealing with how “out of control” I felt. I felt that I needed to control my situations, the people around me and myself in order to feel safe. It got to the point where my “control issues” were hurting my relationships. And yet, I didn’t understand “why” I felt the need to “control” everything. I just knew that I felt safer when I knew exactly what to expect.

I did believe that I was a good person and yet a part of me didn’t believe that. I believed I was a good friend and yet the insecurity and anxieties held me back from actually “being a good friend.” I thought I could do things like “sing” and yet I could never put myself fully “out there” because I couldn’t possibly be good enough and what if I made a mistake…..what would people think of me. I know that lots of people deal with a certain amount of insecurity and I don’t know that I can fully explain just how it felt inside of me. But imagine if you thought you were good enough but then you weren’t really sure if you could believe yourself…..and if you were so unsure then maybe you really weren’t good enough. Throw in some perfection issues which meant that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do ANYTHING you weren’t absolutely certain that you could do with 100% accuracy and confidence………and that pretty much left you not doing much at all. You wanted to do “stuff” but unless you could control the situation and knew exactly what to to expect and exactly what people’s reactions would be and exactly what the outcome would be……….which having all of that fall into place for any specific event, was pretty much an impossibility and if it did…..you came across so confident that no one would ever guess that you were dealing with insecurity and anxiety……and throw on top of that whole mess, that you never wanted to come across as anything less than confident and so you were exhausted all the time just trying to hold yourself together so that you could come across “PERFECTLY” because anything less than perfection was failure and “FAILURE” was never acceptable and basically you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

Knowing what I went through as a teenager/adult, and then when I finally figured out that I was dealing with “anxiety”, feeling so relieved and yet angry and grieved over all the lost time………I am strongly advocating for my children’s Mental Health when necessary.

I look back at my teenage years when I didn’t feel strong enough or worthy enough or acceptable enough to do things like, go to college or university. I figured that I was good at looking after kids and so rather than do things I was interested in, like music or teaching or even in the medical field….I took whatever jobs fell into my lap, got married and had kids. I was too scared to do anything else.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I’m not unhappy with my life, and yet…..I could have done things differently. I’ve shared this with people before and I usually hear something like, “We all feel insecure and regretful of the things we wish we had done but didn’t do.” This is different. I’m talking about life crippling anxiety. Like there where things I wanted to do and yet was SO scared to do them that even the thought of doing it stressed me out, and so I did what felt safe.

I’ve lived my entire life, up until now…..only doing things that felt safe……and that doesn’t seem like a huge list of things, especially compared to things that I have dreamed about doing over the years.

I’ve accomplished a fair amount in my 38 years but I’ve dreamed of accomplishing so much more. I’ve just discarded those dreams because I wasn’t good enough, or people would think I was stupid for wanting to do those things. I believed the lie that others could do it better than me and I shouldn’t even try in case I failed. Because failing is one of the worst things ever. I believed that. I’ve believed that for so many years and I hate it.

This is why I’m a HUGE advocate for my kids and their mental health. I’ve pushed my kids beyond every “limitation” that I’ve had that has held me back. I’ve explained why I’m pushing them into uncomfortable situations. I’ve had them ask for things from adults/teachers/doctors/etc. when they felt uncomfortable doing so. Discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you tried and for whatever reason it didn’t work out, this time……..and that’s ok.

Never try, never win
never get a break
You miss a hundred percent of the
shots you never take

Hedley came out with this song and it’s been HUGE for me……

I’m a lot more open now. I say “yes”, when everything in me wants to say “no”, because “NO” is safe. I don’t mean that I say yes to everything. I’m still in recovery mode from the 2.5 years of cancer treatment and the havoc that wreaked on me. But, I will honestly assess my stress level, versus just saying “NO” because I’m scared. I ask myself if I’m allowing anxiety to hold me back from saying yes to something that I might actually want to do and even be good at. I try to be honest with myself about what I can do and what I can’t do, and to not view everything through the lenses of anxiety. I will even tell others that any hesitation they might sense from me is anxiety and I’m not willing to allow it to control or rule my life any longer.

Does this mean that all my days are good, confident days…..NOPE! Not at all. And when I’m having a particularly bad day – as far as anxiety goes – I am gentle with myself and honest with both myself and others as to how I am doing. Because I know that tomorrow is a new day and most likely I won’t feel the same. I have stronger days and weaker days, but now I know that I am “fighting” anxiety and that it’s not me……I’m not bad.

I am enough. I am good enough. I am strong enough. I am confident enough. I am enough.

I want my kids to believe that they are good enough and can do whatever they want. I want them to “go for” the things they want and so I advocate for them and I encourage them to advocate on their own behalf. We talk about strategies for dealing with “issues” and “insecurities” and “anxieties”. We use medication as an aid, if necessary, and we do it all without guilt. There is no guilt or shame in needing help…….whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

I am enough!
They are enough!
You are enough!

Exhaustion

20130905-214113.jpg

I’m so tired…….I think I’ve been doing better and then something comes along and knocks me down so flat that I feel like any forward movement I’ve made has all been taken away and I’m right back down to scraping the bottom of the emotional/mental/physical barrel.

This week has really done me in. Between first days and lunches and anxiety and high school……it was all pretty overwhelming but I was hanging in there.

Today totally just knocked me over the edge.

I was originally going to take Jeremy out to the appt by myself, and then we had some issues trying to work out who was going to watch Judah and who would pick up Siah and I thought that maybe I might get out of having to deal with today (avoidance……awesome escapism tactic). Jon felt I really needed to be there.

Oh, I didn’t want to. It’s so hard. When your son doesn’t fit “the mold” neatly and nicely and attempting to diagnose the “puzzle” that is your child means that you have to fight with every ounce of strength that you have and even with some that you don’t have…….it’s tough. And after fighting last time and being so dismissed…….it was such a blow that I…..we….didn’t even really want to hope for this to work out.

And yet we want the best for our son and so we scrape together the courage to go to a meeting where we bare our souls and pull out every negative aspect of our son and of ourselves and of our families…….and lay it all out for someone to see and hear and sift through, in the hopes that they will be able to give us answers – or at the very least clues that will help us to help our child.

I sit there in these meetings and wonder how our genetic soup managed to come together in such a way that our son was given this……

ADHD, ODD, Anxiety, SPD and possibly ASD…..all mashed up together in one small child.

It’s SO much. It’s so much for us to deal with. It’s so much for him to deal with. It’s so much.

And yet, like with Angelica……..we make it as “normal” as we can. Bald is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful. And our brains are all unique and the things that make us unique make us so very special. We play up the incredible aspects and attempt to make the difficult things “just a matter of fact”.

But the truth is……it’s not easy. In fact, somedays it feels like a crushing impossibility.

We won’t know the results for a bit. I’m hoping for an Autism Diagnosis because there is so much in that particular diagnosis that makes sense and yet, I’m so scared to get my hopes up.

I want help. I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of trying to be strong. I’m tired of carrying everyone. I’m just really tired.

To be honest, getting the diagnosis would feel like someone was validating just how difficult the past 12 years have been. Don’t get me wrong. I love this young man with every fiber of my being. Which is why I’m fighting with energy that I don’t really feel I have to give…….but it’s been tough…..really tough. And I’m tired.

I’m so tired.