Posts tagged ‘mental health’

50 for 50

I have never been big on birthdays. Until this one. Tomorrow I will be 50, which feels like a massive milestone. From surviving cancer, to surviving parenthood, I feel like celebrating this as the big deal that it is.

A party is not for me, so I decided to make a list of 50 things I want to do in my 50th year. There’s nothing really huge on there – no Icelandic vacation or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail despite both being things I’d like to do – as ultimately I wanted to make the list achievable in this year.

Surprisingly, I have found the list somewhat difficult to make – figuring out 50 small but important things has not been an easy task. I’ve only come up with 29 thus far, but I keep adding things here and there. Re-learning Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor, something I could play when I was 17, is on there. Getting tattoo number four. Mastering a couple of yoga poses that have proved difficult after removing my tumor and lymph nodes also removed my ability to do a lot of things with my arm.

So far? I’ve crossed off four things on the list. Finishing the painting I talked about here a couple of weeks ago, making writing a habit again, playing piano again on a regular basis, and buying a pair of mermaid-scale printed boots have all been completed (I work with kids in the environmental education field…between those boots and the pink streak in my hair, I am *in* with the 5th graders).

Not on the list? Anything having to do with C. Nothing really having to do with Husband (except hopefully he’ll want to do some of those outdoor activities on the list with me). This list is all about me. Having put myself last on the list – or even taking myself off it altogether – for so long, I’m truly learning self-care for maybe the first time in my adult life. Taking up things I love once again – writing, yoga, piano – is an important part of reclaiming my own identity after kind of forgetting my own self for so long. It sounds like the ultimate of cliches, but I truly got lost in the job of making sure the person I brought into the world could survive in it.

Now the focus turns back on me. It is the key to my own survival, if I’m honest. So off I go to tackle number 17 on the list. Wish me well.

April 7, 2019 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Tears and Fears

Things have not been All Quiet on the Western Front, truth be told. The adjustment to having C home has been difficult to say the least, and his ability to slip back into old habits has proved exceptional. This I did not really expect.

Adding to the challenge has been my realization that the person I really hoped would change in the last seven months was me. I guess I thought C’s arrival home would bring with it a completely clean slate. Instead of feeling like I’m living with the dog that’s been biting me for years, I hoped the walls were gone and I wouldn’t have to protect myself.

It has not been so.

I have had a harder time with C being home than anyone else in the house, C included. For so long, I sacrificed so much that I often feel I have nothing left to give. The well feels dry. And that results in more detachment than I think is good for a parent-child relationship. Couple that with the sense that I have to guard myself with C in order to survive emotionally, and I’m left with something that feels less than good. There’s no fun there, no joy, no playfulness.

But here’s the thing. After a horrible weekend of many tears and fantasies of escape on my part, I arrived at the difficult conclusion that maybe I just can’t co-exist with C. I went from a 10 on the happy scale to a 2 in the span of a week of him being home. It shocked me how quickly and dramatically that happened. Yes, it’s early days, but I feel like I perhaps don’t know how to be happy if C is in the house. And then the guilt piles on, because let’s face it, what mother feels this way? Apparently this one does, and that leaves me feeling like I’m circling the drain. It’s a vicious cycle.

After a weepy message that resulted in urging from Therapist NC, I dragged my sorry self into therapy yesterday and laid it all out. The pain, the guilt, the frustration. All the dark feelings that make me feel like a monster. It was perhaps the most honest, intense session I have had, and there have been some doozies in the time I’ve been working with him. I figured I had nothing left to lose.

I left there in zombie mode, and that lasted the rest of the day. I felt drained and empty, but surprisingly calm after days of turmoil. I went to bed and slept better than I’ve slept in a week. And what do you know? I woke up this morning feeling better. I wonder if just by talking it out, and almost getting “permission” from him to feel the way I feel, it took some of the power of those feelings away. It’s almost as if by admitting all the horrible things and not being immediately struck down by lightning, I realized that maybe I don’t quite feel the way I think I do.

And that gives me some hope. Some hope that perhaps just by giving voice to all of this I can perhaps move past it. I know my relationship with C will never be easy and straightforward, but maybe – just maybe – it can be better instead of worse or even non-existent. There is a glimmer of peace in my heart and head again, and I welcome it so.

April 4, 2019 at 1:39 am 2 comments

All in a Day

Last night, I sat on our bed in the dark, alone in the house. I listened to the silence and felt the lack of “vibration,” for lack of a better word, in our home. Recognizing that it would be the last time I would experience that for some time, I reveled in the sensory deprivation.

I spent the day yesterday finishing a painting I started five years ago. In a few weeks, I turn 50 years old, and to celebrate I made a list of 50 things I want to do in my 50th year. Finishing this paining was high up on the list. Unlike writing, which I tend to do when something is bothering me, I have to be happy to paint. I figured finishing this painting, which now hangs above our bed, would be a feather in my happy cap. It will forever remind me to find my happiness if I lose it again.

C is home now. He and Hubs arrived home early this afternoon. For whatever reason, I felt weepy all day. My pain levels have been high (probably just as much about the crazy positions I get into when painting as anything else as I paint on the floor), and I’m tired despite sleeping well last night. I think there’s been a whole lot more going on in the background of my head space than I realized. 

But we all made it through the day intact, and for now, that is enough.

March 25, 2019 at 12:49 am 3 comments

Backseat Driver

C gets released in just two short weeks. It’s hard to believe seven months have gone by – on one hand it seems like the blink of an eye, but when I look at everything that we have accomplished in that time it seems to spread out a bit more.

I seem to have attained a more Zen-like level of calm, but as tasks related to C’s return pile up, I see chinks in that armor. I quickly remembered how much work just goes into managing all things C. Today I spent a couple of hours finding an attorney for our application of guardianship, making an appointment with his psychiatrist, setting up an appointment for his evaluation for para-transit, signing up for city bus training, researching how to switch him from Institutional to regular Medicaid, and communicating with his school about re-enrollment.

I’m left wondering how people with less skills and pushiness navigate the system while simultaneously being frustrated at the challenges of navigating said system. It all adds up to one thing: stress. C has been someone else’s responsibility for seven months, during which time I have enjoyed the fact that no one needs me for their survival in this world.

Then I wonder if I’m over-estimating my own importance in C’s life. The fact is, this kiddo has done something I can scarcely imagine; he has navigated residential treatment with nothing short of great success. He has gone from being an only child to having three roommates. He has joined the basketball team. He has gotten straight As in school. He has been selected as Resident Adviser for his wing. He has survived and thrived in an environment that causes most people to shudder when thinking about it.

Perhaps when C comes home he will be more grown up, more responsible, and more ready to take control of his own life. Perhaps that will enable me to step back and watch a bit more, allowing me to continue to cultivate the joy I have found in my freedom to live my own life. Somehow we’ll have to reintegrate into each other’s lives, but I hope that we can do that while maintaining the boundaries I need in order to survive in his world.

Maybe, just maybe, we are both ready to take more of a backseat in each other’s lives.

March 7, 2019 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

I remember…

I remember standing in the elevator after C’s first neurology appointment  (with a doc so aged another doc acquaintance later said, “What? They still let that guy practice?”) and Husband saying to me, “How does it feel to know more than the doctor?”

I remember C crawling in bed with me in the mornings and saying, “Tummy hurts.” Every. Single. Day. For. Years. It was nearly 12 years before we found the problem behind that issue.

I remember C’s first day of preschool at three years old. He looked up at the Exit sign and said, “E. X. I. T. Exit.”  We took him home and wrote out the handful of words he used at that point and realized he could read every single one.

I remember C’s first throat culture, in the emergency room well after midnight when he spiked a fever we couldn’t get under control. I told the doctor I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get one due to his sensory integration issues, to which she responded in her most condescending voice, “Who diagnosed him with THAT?” as if it was a completely made up thing. It took three staff members to hold him down.

I remember meeting the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed C with autism. Her first words to me, after hearing his screams and tantrums from down the hall, were, “You’re in for an interesting ride.”

I remember snippets like these. I suspect every parent does, but I wonder if parents of neuro-typical kids remember things in a different way. I can’t put my finger on what I would call a regular moment with C. Everything is so dramatic, so extraordinary, and of such significance. I look back and remember nothing average, nothing mundane, nothing banal. I’m sure those moments happened, but not frequently.

I don’t really know what to expect when C comes home, but I certainly hope for boring. Or at least more of it than we have experienced before now.

 

 

February 18, 2019 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Clearing the mind

I am not a huge fan of “stuff.” I don’t own 100 pairs of shoes, tons of make-up, or hordes of purses. Hubs is similar. We each have our collection of things, though…I have lots of tennies (comfort is important to me), and Hubs has lots of camping gear (his days as a park ranger aren’t that far behind him). Relatively speaking, we don’t own a ton of possessions. However, we differ in a way that I find interesting: Hubs likes a clean surface and I like a clean drawer. I like to think we complement each other in that way.

In my mind, my desire for organized dressers and kitchen cupboards was always a metaphor for what was going on in my mind. I would clean a drawer in an attempt to clear my head of its figurative clutter. It never really worked all that well…my restlessness and general melancholy were only relieved in small doses.

I often think C’s brain is just so full that he can’t settle enough to experience peace. Whether it’s autism, teenager-y, or his general personality I’m not sure – probably it’s all three. In my journey toward mindfulness, I have come to recognize how difficult a skill that would be for C, and he in fact struggles with it greatly. Not that I always find it easy, but I have calmed my inner clutter enough and have experienced enough reward for it that I want him to get there too.

Enter Marie Kondo. I have been familiar with her concept for years, but only generally. Lately, however, I have been watching her show on Netflix, and to say the connection between outer and inner clutter has become more clear to me is an understatement. I spent many hours yesterday Kondo-ing my closet, and despite my comment above that I’m not a girly-girl with lots of clothes, I managed to get rid of at least half of what was in there. The sense of relief has been palpable. I can’t wait to get to everything else.

For me, it seems I needed to calm some of the inner clutter before I could tackle the outer instead of the other way around. I am not sure what the key is for C, but I find myself hoping that his months of living without all of his stuff while in residential treatment has aided in his ability to experience inner calm.

January 13, 2019 at 6:12 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

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