Posts tagged ‘dbt’

What We Need

What We Need has functioned as a journal for me over the years, and in my draft folder there’s almost 100 starts that I never published (if you don’t know the meaning behind the title, here is an explanation: Just what do we need, exactly?). As I read through those drafts I am often startled at what I find. They are full of pain and hopelessness and desperation. It doesn’t match what I feel now, but I admit to feeling more than a bit anxious at the thought of C’s return home.

Anxious enough that during a session with Therapist NC and Hubs last week to discuss the “coming home plan,” I found myself admitting that I don’t really want C to come home. It’s not really about C himself, it’s more about not wanting to return to the way things were…or gradually doing so and not realizing it until we are right back where we were before C left.

When I read the old draft of a post (below), I was struck at how much that was our life at the time I wrote it (almost a decade ago), and how much that was our life when C left for treatment last fall. How, I ask myself, did we let it go so long? It astounds me just how painful, just how hopeless, and just how desperate things were for so many years. It’s not as if we didn’t try things – we tried everything. But nothing ever worked. Therapy, meds, interventions, home visits, school changes, homeschooling, living near relatives, living in social neighborhoods with lots of kids, signing C up for things…none of it ever did anything to change what was going on in our home.

Therapist NC would say, if I could channel him, that we’ve all done a lot of work in the past six months and there has been great change. I don’t disagree with him, but it is hard to imagine something different when things have been so much the same for so long. So once again, here I sit, feeling a bit anxious, with good reason to be, but also with some hope – again, with good reason to feel some. The trick will be – as it always is – to find the balance between my expectations and my own self-awareness, with a good dose of hoping I’ll know where the line is so that another decade doesn’t go by with us living so far across the line we can’t even see it any longer.

From 2011…Still, here I sit tonight, completely and utterly perplexed as what to do next. I have a child whose combativeness and behavior are at a crisis point. It starts in the morning when he wakes up, continues from the moment I pick him up after school, and rarely settles before bedtime. With every fiber of his being, C is screaming that he needs something, and we are all at a loss for what it is. While we try and figure it out, I try to ignore the venom directed my way and tell myself it’s not C. I try to stay calm while he screams, relentlessly, about how he doesn’t want to stand here, there, or anywhere. It’s that unreasonable. He’s like a gnat that won’t go away, and he follows me around, forcing my attention, until I lock myself in my room to escape his wrath. Then he starts trying to kick down the door. Yes, we are in an almost emergency state, our little family, and we are failing at being a family. We are at the point where there’s going to be some intervention, and I only hope the intervention comes on our terms instead of some random person walking down the street calling CPS because they hear what sounds like a tortured child.

February 11, 2019 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Focus

I can go entire days without much thought of C. This has troubled me somewhat; what kind of mother doesn’t think about her child on a regular basis? If I tracked my thoughts it would probably startle me how little I think of him. However, I have realized it isn’t really a lack of thoughts about C. Rather, it’s a lack of total brain consumption regarding all things C. For the first time since he was born, really, I haven’t had to think about the C to-do list. What specialist should he see next? Is he making friends? Do I need to have another conversation with the special ed teacher? Should we start occupational therapy again? What new supplement could we add to the list that might help? Is this school good for him? 

What, who, why, when, and how…my head has been full since day one.

No, I am not a helicopter parent. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. My goal has never been to protect C from life, but to prepare him for it. Any mama bear action has been with the goal of making it into a learning experience for him. Running him around to therapies, doctors, and IEP meetings was a necessary part of getting him to reach his independence. We still have miles to go in that department, and he may never fully get there in the way other kids do. Still, that will always be our goal.

But with C gone, I have found time to focus on me again. My happiness, my life; the focus is all me. I had been working toward all of that before he left, but now that he is fully someone else’s responsibility, I can focus on gaining my *own* independence once again. I recognize that I’ll have to balance this when he returns, and I’m hopeful I’ll have enough of a running start that I will not once again fall prey to the need to focus every brain cell on C.

December 30, 2018 at 11:11 pm Leave a comment

Wild Child

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver

Someone I trust more than most recently told me I am a completely different person than I was two years ago when we met. Entrenched in anger, sadness, grief, and frustration, I was miserable. I was coming off the end of cancer treatment, suffering with significant nerve damage and body image issues from the surgery, and trying to manage all things C. No easy tasks on that list.

I ruminated on that statement for a day or two, and I realized something. I’m back. Back to me, my old self, and the happy, adventurous wild woman that I used to be. It looks different now than it did in my 20s, when I would (stupidly) take off alone in my jeep with nothing but a forest service map and some munchies. In my late 40s, adventure to me looks more like being vulnerable, taking on an exciting new job, and speaking my truth. Writing. Engaging. Sharing secrets. Asking for what I want and need.

This journey for me really started with C. Not *that* C, but the Cancer-C. It was the wake up call I needed, it seems. “Hey!” it screamed. “Your life could be over. Is this all there is, is this all you want?” And in the most cliche movie-moment ever, I realized the answer to both those questions was no.

That same someone asked me back then if nothing changed in my life, could I find a way to be happy? I remember groaning at that question, and I probably rolled my eyes. But over time, I realized I had to figure out a way to make that answer into a “yes,” and the solution to that was all me. Not that much has changed – my health still challenges me, and C most definitely still challenges me. Yet I am in a much better place.

The journey here has been full of ups and downs, and I know it will continue to be. But I most definitely know what I want to do with my one wild and precious life, and it is exactly what I am doing.

December 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

Trouble in the Water

C’s issues have almost always manifested at home instead of anywhere else, really. On one hand, I have been grateful for that because teachers, babysitters, habilitation workers have all loved him. I remember the first time he got in trouble in preschool -everyone was so excited that he finally did something they deemed normal.

On the other hand, the fact that his issues exist at home is cause for concern about the family dynamic. I have always known we were doing *something* wrong that was making C’s behavior worse, more explosive, and more troublesome. That may have been true to some extent in that we, by reacting to his behaviors, reinforced them. We have stopped that for the most part, yet the behaviors still continued. Cue the sigh of relief that it’s not all our fault.

Yet one place C has done remarkably well is in treatment facilities. He has been in the acute care hospital four times in the last two years, and he is always discharged with comments like, “We see no real issues, and he has behaved perfectly well during his time here.” It got to the point where, on his third “episode,” we waited in the ER for nearly 24 hours before the acute care hospital would admit him, despite there being no other option for placement. They attributed his behaviors to behavioral problems instead of mental health problems. I could see where they were going with this, but when my kid is wielding a knife threatening to harm himself, I don’t really care what’s at the root of the behavior, I just want him to get help.

His time at his residential treatment facility has been no different. We’ve already had one of his therapists express disbelief at him being there at all. We are used to that, although I still find it annoying, as if there is some flaw in the therapist that he can’t see past the happy, agreeable front C puts on. Therapist NC here at home promised us we would get a call at some point saying C was in trouble and that it would indicate he had finally settled in and the real work could begin.

The months had gone by and I had resigned myself to this never happening during his entire stay, because let’s face it, C is C and he does things in his own sweet time in his own sweet way, or not at all. But he called us the other night, in enough trouble that if he gets one more strike, he won’t be able to leave campus during the day with us at Christmas, and we’ll have to visit with him in the visiting room only. Yikes.

The relative amount of relief I experienced about this was palpable. I texted Therapist NC about this development, knowing he would be one of only a few people who would understand how ridiculously happy – yes, happy – this made me. Because I know that this means C is comfortable. He is comfortable enough to show himself and his behaviors. And that means he can finally get some help.

December 10, 2018 at 6:45 pm 2 comments

Woke

I read the message of a dear childhood friend with surprise. She talked about the impact of the various health crises of her special needs child on her other children, and how she and her husband had not really tackled that impact well in the midst of everything going on. She is kind of a pillar of amazing-ness to me; she has handled their child’s medical issues with a strength and grace I strive to emulate.

I quickly responded in support that we are all doing our best in any given moment, and I believe that of her completely. I then gently tried to extend that sentiment to myself to see how it felt. I found myself believing it, maybe for the first time ever.

I think I’ve spent 17 years judging – and often judging harshly – myself and how I have handled things with C. I am a fixer at heart, a researcher by trade, and I’m always convinced there is an answer just around the corner. I keep searching for it, because I know if I find it everything will be better.

But I give. I quit. I’m done. No more of that. Whether it took distance from C to realize it, or if I am just waking up, I don’t know. It brings me to tears to think about it – holy cow, I have been hard on myself. From day one, if I’m honest. Not good enough, not doing enough, not doing the right thing, not giving enough, not loving enough. Yet the reality is I have done everything, given everything, and loved so hard it sort of broke me.

I am always doing my best. And I can always do better. Therapist NC wrote this statement on a whiteboard at our very first meeting with him. How I hated that sentiment – and many others – during those early days of therapy. I couldn’t live with dichotomies like that one. I thought it excused things. Gave reasons for C to be an ass and then say he was doing his best in the very next breath (which he did more than once). But perhaps what it really did was bring to light my own deeply-held belief that I was never, ever at my best. Doing better was something I should be doing more of, even though I felt like I was constantly working at it. I had the second part of that therapy statement down, perhaps too much so.

It’s exhausting living with the belief you are never good enough. I am now trying to give myself a little bit of a pass on the “I can always do better” part. Even though I’m not doing exactly as instructed by Therapist Saying #1, I think it’s an okay way for me to work it. Putting down that heavy weight has been a great relief. And in this week of Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful to have finally reached this point of believing I am doing – and have done – my best.

November 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm 2 comments

Unpacking

I wandered into my appointment with my therapist this week without a whole lot on my mind, really, except ongoing pain around which life seems to revolve right now. What came out of my mouth, however, were several revelations I’m not sure I even recognized for what they were until I spoke them aloud. Whether a high pain level lowers my internal filter or makes me care less what anyone thinks, I’m not sure, but it does seem to be an effective conduit for getting things out of my head and into the universe. And somewhat surprisingly, lightning bolts didn’t strike me down immediately for saying these things. Go figure.

The worst of the worst? I’m fairly ambivalent about seeing C when we visit him over Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen him since he left here in August. And he left after a rather violent episode that left us both hurting. Hubs was out of town, C went for pills I inadvertently left out, and the rest is history that will haunt me for years to come. Truth be told, I don’t know that I have actually forgiven him for that incident which, if I’m honest, is probably more at the root of my ambivalence than anything else.

When we talk with C on the phone, he sounds great. Things come out of his mouth that astound me. He seems healthy, well adjusted, and happy. But I don’t really trust any of it fully. It all feels artificial. We won’t know how he’s truly doing until he comes home, and even a visit won’t tell us much. Only when we are all back in our daily routine will we be able to tell if any of these newfound skills will actually stick, and I admit to not having a whole lot of faith in this process. Not really because of C, his treatment center, or Hubs and me. It’s more about the best predictor of the future being the past. Habits, dynamics, behaviors…they are all difficult to change.

So I wait. I continue to work on my sense of inner calm and peace no matter what is going on around me, because I know that’s really all I can do. Staying in the moment and all of that. I am a lot better at that particular skill than I was a year ago. Still, when someone is throwing things, body slamming closed doors, going for knives and pills, and screaming hateful things, it is fairly difficult to be very Zen. I am trying to let those incidents fade from my memory and recognize that a seven month break is pretty significant. A lot of change can happen in this time C is away.

Yet that voice in my head and heart continues. “What if?” I just keep trying to counter the negative answers with, “What if it’s great?” I am reminded of my own Nana, who had unrelenting faith in all of her children and grandchildren. Cousin X could have murdered someone and she would chalk it up to a phase that would pass. So I’m left wondering. What if C grows up, gains insight, recognizes his own role in life, and chooses to jump down on the right side of the fence? Now wouldn’t *that* be something?

November 11, 2018 at 4:17 pm 2 comments

A Life Worth Living

I stopped writing here mostly because I felt like C’s story was not mine to tell, he was getting older, and he was online. It felt like a violation of his privacy, and I know I run that risk again now. Yet it is not – it should not be – just about him. So much of his story is intertwined with my own, and mine with his. They are impossible to separate, it seems.

However, that is exactly the problem. My problem. In my quest to help C along his path to become a productive and happy adult, I fell into that cliche of a trap that I never thought would happen to me. I lost myself. Or, rather, I lost my identity. I became nothing but wrapped up in all things C, and it dominated my life. I was isolated, lonely, and miserable. My physical health suffered, my mental health suffered, and my marriage suffered. Of those three things, only Hubs didn’t rock the boat by startling me into paying attention. He understood, bless him. My body and mind did not.

First came cancer. Breast cancer, to be exact. I became that statistic that scares most women to their very core. Cancer forced me to focus on myself, something I had not really done since C was born, if I’m honest. I am all the better for it, despite still living in fear of its return. I went from having one friend with cancer to being surrounded by people with cancer, and while that at times makes me very uncomfortable, it also helps challenge my fear of it.

Second came depression, or rather the acknowledgement of it. After nearly a year of C’s therapist repeatedly pulling me aside after family sessions asking if I would like to talk to someone alone, I took the bait and have not looked back. Whether NC is particularly talented or he just landed in my life at the most opportune moment, I will never know for sure, but I take it for the great gift it has been to me.

So now I walk my own path once again. No longer willing to sacrifice every single thing for C, I am still coming to grips with my own judgement about what kind of mother that makes me. At the end of the day, the conclusion at which I must arrive is that it makes me a mother who is alive, in every possible, wonderful, messy way.

 

 

 

October 14, 2018 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment


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