Posts tagged ‘therapy’

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

Boys

     I work as a program administrator for a small theatre company that does what I’ve come to call “therapeutic theatre.” The players, people I have come to admire greatly, perform improvisational theatre based on audience members’ stories (it’s called “playback theatre”), and they also do workshops in which the audience fully participates. The therapeutic part of their work is that they are doing all these workshops and performances at homeless shelters, juvenile detention facilities, and group homes for developmentally disabled adults. The participants, through improv, explore their feelings, learn empathy, and become empowered in their own lives. It’s amazing work that takes my breath away whenever I see it.

     Today I spent my morning participating in one of the workshops with juvenile sex offenders. These aren’t 20 year old men who had sex with their 16 year old girlfriends. These are 14, 15, and 16 year old kids who did something bad enough to land them in a locked-down treatment facility. Scary stuff.

     Truthfully, I didn’t want to go today. Sex offenders make me nervous. Young sex offenders, those who have probably perpetrated their crimes on even younger children, really make me nervous. So it was with heavy heart that I attended the workshop today. I suppose in the back of my head, even being the liberal bleeding heart that I am, I was expecting these kids to be monsters, horrible miscreants with big signs on their t-shirts saying, “Stay away from me, I’m scary,” in case there was any doubt. Which I didn’t figure there would be, given the horns I must have thought would be sticking out of their heads.

     The truth, however, is that these kids are just that – kids. They’re babies, really, not even old enough to live on their own. And frankly, they seemed like pretty nice kids to me. On the verge of being out of control sometimes, which was apparent both in their words and their actions, but overall most of them seemed like good kids. No horns in sight.

     What struck me the most as I made the long drive from the inner city back home to my sheltered life, is that somewhere out there, all these kids have a mother, some of whom are probably just like me. A mother who wants her child to grow up to be happy and healthy. A mother who has high hopes for her son. A mother who probably questions her every move with her child, and perhaps replays events in his life, wondering if she handled them the right way. A mother who probably never anticipated the challenges that parenting have brought her, but is doing her best to work through them. 

     A mother who just wants to hug and shelter her little boy.

January 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm 6 comments

Checkin’ out

     I seem to be going through a phase I think many of us parents go through at some point in our kids’ young lives. There’s a point early on, where you know there is a limited amount of time as their young brains develop and patterns are formed. You run from therapy appointment to therapy appointment, and sometimes your child’s whole life seems to be full of therapy appointments. My son, for one, has always loved and continues to enjoy therapies. He works better with adults than kids, and he loves nothing more than someone completely focused on HIM. At some point, however, I began to wonder if he has reached the point where therapies no longer do much for him. In part because he is who he is, and another part because the other kids are who they are.

     I listened to a little boy tell C this morning that he was annoying, and later realized C would probably never say that to another child. He might if the child was in his face, but I still don’t think he’d say it in that way – he would say it in his own defense instead of as an offensive move against the other kid. If he’s mean to someone, it seems to be out of ignorance or true misunderstanding. He doesn’t ever seem to be mean simply for the sake of being mean. I don’t take any credit for this as I know it has far more to do with his diagnosis than any great parenting on my part. I just don’t think he ever looks at someone and calculates how to hurt their feelings.

     So as I’m pondering the wisdom of signing the form that came home requesting his presence in a friendship group at school (which was discussed at his IEP meeting), I find myself wondering if it will do any good. He’s quirky, he’s sometimes awkward, and he can certainly irritate other kids, but I’m not sure more therapy or a social group is going to change any of that. C is who he is, and I think he’s the most delightful child in the world. I wonder if he’s been coached enough, scripted enough, prodded enough, and prompted enough to just let him be.

October 29, 2008 at 8:52 pm 11 comments

Teach and ye shall learn

     I am stunned at how much we take the way we learn things for granted. We (with the aid of many wonderful physical, speech, occupational and feeding therapists along the way) have taught C how to do everything from walk to talk to eat. It’s always physical things as opposed to mental things that are a struggle for him. He can’t button his shirt yet, but he learned all the Presidents, their Vice Presidents, the number President they were, and where they were born (which once resulted in a small argument with a doctor who insisted to C that Abraham Lincoln was born in Illinois – WRONG – and I sent a copy of the flashcard with the correct state of Kentucky to said doctor – DON’T YOU ARGUE WITH MY KID! – which I’m sure he appreciated!) in the span of about two weeks when he was 4.

     That being said, I’m simply fascinated at the process of learning for these children with autism. Blowing his nose becomes a highly skilled activity for C in which the task is broken down into the tiniest of pieces. He has to learn how to take the kleenex out of the box, fold it correctly, hold it with both hands, find his nose on his face with both hands, place the kleenex in the right place over his nose, apply the right amount of pressure with his fingertips, blow, wipe, fold the kleenex after blowing, and finally throw it away. He is finally starting to do this task by himself after years of work.

     So when a teacher commented last year that I shouldn’t help him blow his nose, I reminded myself that I’m doing a very good job of finding the balance between letting C just be a kid and spending too much of his time in therapeutic interventions with the goal of teaching him these skills. It’s important that our children have time to play, hang out, and just be the silly little creatures they are – there’s always tomorrow to learn how to tie one’s shoes.

February 1, 2008 at 4:31 am 4 comments


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