Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

The Knowing Continues September 18, 2019

THAT <– was then – Over a year ago.  Please read it before continuing here.

 

Jay’s been a middle schooler for about a month now.  He was both nervous and excited to begin the new chapter.  He was looking forward to taking the bus to and from school with his brother.  He was looking forward to having a locker.  Thanks to the good job that Ace did of “selling it”, he was also looking forward to meeting his teachers and taking some new types of classes; wood shop and cooking for example.

 

I was also both nervous and excited.  I worked from home on their first day so that in case I received a phone call saying things were going horribly wrong, I could be at the school in 10 minutes.

The phone call never came.  The boys came home and both had had a good day.

By the end of the first week, Jay was echoing many of the same things Ace had said after his first week of middle school (2 years earlier).  “Middle school is great. I love moving from classroom to classroom for each subject. Middle school is so much better than elementary school.”

 

I was overjoyed and relieved.  At the time, I considered posting on this blog about it because it made me so happy and I wanted to store that feeling somewhere other than in my heart.

 

I’m glad I waited though because what I write next is what really made me post.

 

 

Last week, the boys brought home their interim report cards.  Ace, who’s been doing really well over the last couple of years is holding on to his straight A status.  Jay, who has been steadily improving, but who doesn’t see himself as academically gifted, had mostly A’s but then also a C and a D.

According to his report, he had missed turning in some assignments and that was the cause of the lower grades.  Jay swore to me that he had handed everything in.  So, I emailed the 2 teachers in question to ask for more information.

Here are the responses:

 

(1)

“Good Morning!

I am missing a bell ringer from him. I have looked through all of my graded things and I do not see it. I will talk to him about it today. He mentioned it to me at the beginning of class yesterday, but we ended up running out of time.

Jay* has been very good about talking to me when he needs something so I will talk to him again today! I hope you have a great day! Let me know if you have any other questions.”

 

And then later in the day …

 

“We found his old missing assignment and he turned it in. I will try to get it in the computer soon!”

 

(2)

“Hi, thanks so much for sending this.  I figured out what it is. He did not do the states crossword puzzle.  Missing one assignment makes a big difference.  I have five crossword puzzles on my board marked with “no-name”, so if Jay* knows he did it, it’s probably there.  If he didn’t do it, he can still hand it in for credit.  Once that is taken care of, his interim will reflect the change and be an A.”

 

Now, the improved grades are amazing and I do think it would do a lot to boost his own confidence if he were to bring home a final report with all A’s, but I was brought to literal tears from the line:

“He mentioned it to me at the beginning of class yesterday, but we ended up running out of time.

Jay* has been very good about talking to me when he needs something …”

 

THAT is NOT the child who:

I was told by a “licensed doctor”, when he was 2 years, would need to be heavily medicated and possibly institutionalized by the time he became a teenager.

I wondered if he would ever speak, when he was still non-verbal at 5 yrs old.

Began kindergarten as a 6 yr old, in a self-contained “autism class” with 6 students and 3 teachers.

Would SCREAM and meltdown on a DAILY basis.

Got kicked out of speech therapy and summer camp due to his uncontrollable behavior.

Because he wasn’t able to handle it; Got moved around from a large group to a small group to just 2 kids in a social skills group at a therapy center dedicated to helping children on the spectrum.

 

As recently as April of last year, this is what was said during one of his IEP* meetings:

“He hasn’t cried all year.  He whines quite a bit but that’s better than crying.”

 

This does not mean that all things every day are now perfect.  He still has some things to work on – As do we all.  But I am just overwhelmed (Is there a stronger word than overwhelmed?) by how far he’s come – And I KNOW I’ve said that before at different stages of his development.  But it’s worth repeating.  This kid is just amazing and despite his “pop-up” anxieties and his bad attitudes at times and his ability to test ALL our patience, I am blown away by him in positive ways every single day.  Ways that he cannot even comprehend.  And ways that his current teachers would never be able to appreciate.

 

I don’t know what made Jay develop and grow the way he has.  I get asked that question quite often.  There is no 1 magic trick.  I do believe in our case, it was a combination of:

His parents realizing early on that he needed help and being willing to seek out that help.

His parents not accepting the dire predictions that we were given and constantly looking for the “right” people to be on his team.

The fact that his teachers have been incredibly supportive, creative, understanding, nurturing and positive from the beginning.

Genetics.

Consistency and love and encouragement from family/friends.

His own determination and drive.

 

And here is where I tie back to the last post again.  We still have challenges.  There are still tricky things to navigate.  I still get stressed and worried – but things are ok.  Good even.

My friendships are strong – and for that I am beyond grateful.

My credit score is the best it’s ever been.

Ace having his own cell phone hasn’t caused any real problems.

I do still need to make myself a dentist appointment.  *shrug*

We’ve done quite a lot of good travel.  Some as a family (yes, I finally got the kids passports renewed) and some just Shaunie and I as a couple (that’s important too).

The knowing continues.

There will be moments of darkness, but there will also be light.  It’s not easy, but this is life.  One thing at a time.  Do what you need to do to maintain your own mental health.  Just hang on through the rough patches and make sure to recognize and enjoy the beautiful moments when they come.

 

 

 

*Jay is the name we use on the blog. His teachers had used his real name.

*An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan which allows students to receive special education services.  For more info, please let me know.

 

The Knowing September 13, 2019

I recently came across something I had written (but never posted) on August 7, 2018.

 

 

Therapist:  So, what brings you here today?

Me:  I don’t know.  I just feel overwhelmed.  With my life.

 

That was how my very first therapy session started.  It was the spring of 2013.

At the time, I had a job that I wasn’t happy at.  Pretty much no money.  A 7 year old with not-yet-diagnosed ADHD, who was struggling in school.  A 6 year old, whose autism had a chokehold on the entire house.  The relationships with my husband, father, mother and grandfather varied from shitty to non-existent.  I had curled inward; away from my friends.

I felt very alone.  I was a mess.  Drowning.  And I saw no way out.  I didn’t go to therapy thinking there was anything they could do or say to “fix” my life.  I mean really.  What could they do about any of the things I was anxious about or overwhelmed by?  But what other choice did I have?  I had to try something.

 

I ended up going to 5 sessions.   It helped, but not in the way I think most people go to therapy expecting it to.  My therapist helped me to simplify and organize my thoughts.  It was a relief to say some things out loud that I’d been guarding tightly.  Ultimately, we decided that my life boiled down to 2 things.

  1. Sometimes things suck and you just have to get to a place where you accept that they suck and you have to stop looking for/hoping for/expecting different. Just accept.
  2. Some things – like your job and your marriage – can change, but they won’t change (for good or bad) on their own. You play an active role in what you allow. How much are you willing to tolerate before you make steps towards making that change?

 

 

August 2018.

Shaunie (my wife):  What’s wrong?  You got quiet.

Me:  I’m just in a funk.

 

How do I explain it to her?  She’s a “fixer”.  But there’s no easy fix when depression creeps in.  You know all the things.

You know it could be worse; there are people who love you; you have lots of reasons to be happy and grateful.

You know that if you ask her to do something specific she will make it happen.  It’s who she is.

You also know that she’s dealing with her own schtuff and the last thing she needs is you adding to her plate a bunch of “to-do’s” that will ease you to some extent but won’t magically “un-funk” you so there’s no point in putting her through that.

Everything feels like a huge problem and like it will take energy I don’t have.  The house needs tidying up.  I feel fat.  I look old.  I have to renew my license.  The kids need new passports.  I need to catch up on over 200 work emails.  I have a phone call to a sick friend I’m supposed to make.  I need to make arrangements with the kids dad for him to see them again before the summer is out.  I got an email saying my credit score had dropped.  I always have another dentist appointment I need to schedule.   And I always know that the next one won’t be the last one.  I am SO OVER THE DENTIST.

No, I don’t want tea or to laugh or sex.  I just want to curl up in bed.  It’s all I can manage.  That’s what feels easy.  Doable.

We cuddle and I fall asleep.

It’s a sweet relief.  From life.

But now it’s the next day and I can’t stay in bed.  I have to shower and go to work and make phone calls and wash dishes and hang back up the picture that fell off the wall.

 

I think back to my therapy sessions.

What can I control?  What do I have to let go of?  What feeling is weighing me down that I need to just accept/let go off, instead of trying to make it be different?  One thing at a time – The tension in my brain starts to unwind.

 

Ace starts 7th grade soon.  It comes with certain stresses, but, in quiet honest moments, I am not too worried about that.  It’s his second year of middle school and last year went pretty well.  He has a cell phone now, thanks to his Grandma, so I’ll have to figure out some rules around his use of it as well as install some parental controls; but that’s stuff we can manage.

Jay.

This one is a little harder.

My heart constricted a little when I typed his name.  For the last couple of years, I had not fretted about the start of the new school year.  But he’s going into 5th grade which will be his last year of elementary school.  I cannot handle the thought of him leaving that environment.  Elementary school had begun to feel safe for him.  Comfortable.  Predictable in its own way; even as we moved up the grades.  His teachers, the mostly innocent and friendly and understanding kids, the routine.  The special education team was always the same at IEP meetings etc.  Middle school will be different.  There will be a totally different set of students as none of his current friends will attend the same middle school as him.  A different school staff who don’t know and love him – yet.  A vastly different daily routine.  Different expectations.

“Different” with Jay is scary.

 

BUT, I can’t control these things – And certainly not now.  Why am I already stressing about next year?  I don’t know.  Ask my old friend anxiety.

 

Things will settle down soon enough I reassure myself.  I will get over these feelings eventually OR we will address the things that need addressing – Which will serve to calm me down.  I KNOW this.  I know this because I’ve been down this road before.  More than once.

And in this case, today, the knowing is the force holding me together.  It is my life jacket.

 

 

To Be Continued ………….

 

The Knowing – Part 2 August 10, 2018

< Read part 1 here >

 

One small thing at a time honey.”

 

That’s what I commented a few days ago on a friends Facebook post.  She was sharing that she felt drained and overwhelmed by how difficult life was at the moment.

 

One small thing at a time.  That’s what helps me.  Even though it doesn’t FEEL small when you get up to do it.

 

One day, I made the phone call I was supposed to have made days earlier.

I also made arrangements for the boys trip to New Jersey.

Whew.

I went home and went to bed early.  That’s what I needed that day after doing the difficult task of working all day AND making 2 phone calls.

The next day, as soon as I got home from work, I grabbed the hooks and put that picture right back on the wall where it belonged.

Something inside me exhaled a little.

The mountain still loomed large ahead of me but I’d taken that first couple of steps.

One small thing at a time.

 

I rescheduled the dentist appointment.  That one I just couldn’t do.  I know my mental limits.  I’ll try again next month.

I washed dishes and moved the vacuum cleaner from beside the dining room table to the “cleaning supplies/tools” nook.

 

As I crossed things off the list, my chest felt lighter.

Shaunie asked me what I was going to do next.  “Put clean sheets on the guest bed” I said.  She replied.  “I’ll do it“.

Upstairs, I put a couple shirts in a drawer and the handbags that were lounging beside the bed went back to their rightful position.

Exhale.

On my way out the door headed to work, I picked up the politicians flyer that had been thrown onto my lawn and used it to dust away cobwebs that had formed between the light and the spigot attached to the house.

Small things.  They help.

 

As of the publishing of this post, I am back to “normal”.  The kids are home from spending 2 weeks with their Grandma.  The house is pretty tidy although we haven’t done any unpacking from all our travels so there are 8(!) pieces of luggage packed into the den.  We haven’t done any of that laundry either.  I’m not worried about it at all though.  I’m glad it’s the weekend and we don’t have any set plans.  We will probably end up going to the movies or something equally chill.  I am really looking forward to next weekend since we will be hanging out with friends and family from all over.

 

~*~

 

I recognize that my anxiety is not as crippling as other peoples.

I do not take it for granted that I have the ability to recognize my emotions for what they are.  I know better than to make big decisions while I am in that state.

*Thankfully (and maybe because I know myself so well now) the moments of being down pass more quickly than they used to.*

I do not take it for granted that I am fairly good at dealing with my brain in a healthy way.  Never turning to drugs or other dangerous habits.

I do not take for granted that I am lucky to have a supportive and understanding partner.  She’s never dismissive or condescending.

I have gotten better at leaving a space open for love to seep in.

I know there was a line in part 1 where I said “How can I explain it to her?” … But she knows the full me.  Before I ever hit publish on Part 1, I sent it to Shaunie.  In the past, I would have held it all inside.  Progress.

Truth be told, I didn’t plan to or think I would ever hit publish on it.

But here we are.

I still wonder if I am being too open.

 

 

I hope that if nothing else, my writing helps others to know they are not alone.  I hope it makes people see that there’s no shame in doing what you need to do to keep your self sane.

I hope that people see that even though it’s scary to be vulnerable, it makes a huge difference when you let it be known that you need help and when you allow yourself to be helped.  Whether that help is in the form of talking to a professional therapist, or taking a daily prescription medication, or just letting a caring and concerned loved one know that you need a break so they cook you dinner and don’t give you a hard time about wasting time on frivolous TV.  Whatever you actually need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knowing – Part 1 August 9, 2018

When things get hard, when they are complicated, I get quiet. I curl inward. That doesn’t mean my brain, soul and heart shut off. It means they are working overtime.

< Lori Duron – https://raisingmyrainbow.com/2018/08/06/one-mom/ >

 

 

Therapist:  So, what brings you here today?

Me:  I don’t know.  I just feel overwhelmed.  With my life.

 

That was how my very first therapy session started.  It was the spring of 2013.

At the time, I had a job that I wasn’t happy at.  Pretty much no money.  A 7 year old with not-yet-diagnosed ADHD who was struggling in school.  A 6 year old whose autism had a choke-hold on us.  The relationships with my husband, father, mother and grandfather varied from shitty to non-existent.  I had curled inward : away from my friends.  I felt very alone.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

I didn’t go to therapy thinking there was anything they could do or say to “fix” my life.  I mean really.  What could they do about any of the things I was anxious about or overwhelmed by?  But also, what other choice did I have?  I had to try something.  Giving up has never been an option for me.  I suppose that’s a good thing.

 

I ended up going to 5 sessions then.   Five weeks is how long it took me to realize life boiled down to 2 things.

  1. Sometimes things suck and you just have to get to a place where you accept that and stop looking for/hoping for/expecting different.  And move on.
  2. Some things – like your job and your marriage – can change. How much are YOU willing to accept before YOU make steps towards making that change?  And move on?

 

Knowing those 2 things doesn’t prevent anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed by what most people would consider minor issues, from stopping by uninvited.

 

 

Summer 2018.

Shaunie:  What’s wrong?  You got quiet.

Me:  I’m just in a funk.

 

How do I explain it to her?  She’s a “fixer”.  But there’s no easy fix when depression creeps in.  You know all the things.

You know it could be worse.

You know there are people who love you.

You know you have lots of reasons to be happy and grateful.

You know if you ask her to do something specific she will make it happen.

 

You also know she’s dealing with her own schtuff and the last thing she needs is you adding to her plate a bunch of “to-do’s” that will ease you to some extent but won’t magically “un-funk” you so there’s no point in putting her through that.

 

The problem isn’t in the knowing though.  It’s in the feeling.

I feel on the verge of tears often.

I feel exhausted just thinking about the things I need to do.

I feel resentful of people who have even one thing that I want. (Eg. A short commute.)

I feel badly about myself because I take these feelings out on the people who least deserve it.

 

Everything feels like a huge problem and like it will take energy I don’t have.  The house needs tidying up.  I feel fat.  I look old.  I have to renew my license.  The kids need new passports (we didn’t get it done 2 weeks ago like we were supposed to).  I need to catch up on over 200 work emails.  I have a phone call to a sick friend I’m supposed to make.  I need to make arrangements with the kids dad for him to see them again before the summer is out.  I got an email saying my credit score had dropped.  I don’t know why and I can’t bring myself to investigate.  Not today anyway.  Maybe tomorrow.  I always have another dentist appointment scheduled.   And I always know that the next one won’t be the last one.  I am SO OVER THE DENTIST.  And you mean, I need to stop at the gas station and fill up the car?  Ugh!

 

No, I don’t want tea or to laugh or to exercise.  I love her so much for seeing me.  For trying without being pushy or annoyed.  For wanting to be whatever I need in that moment.  But all I want is to curl up in bed.  It’s all I can manage.  That’s what feels easy.  Doable.

We cuddle and I fall asleep.

But I can’t live in bed.  I have to shower and go to work and make phone calls and wash dishes and hang back up that picture that fell off the wall.

 

Ace starts 7th grade in September.  I am not too worried about that.  It’s his second year of middle school and last year went pretty well.  He has a cell phone now, thanks to his Grandma, so I will have to figure out some rules around his use of it as well as install some parental controls.  But that, thankfully, is at least one thing I can put off for a little while.  They don’t come back home for a little while.

Jay.

My heart constricted a little when I typed his name.  For the last couple of years, I had not fretted about the start of the new school year.  But he’s going into 5th grade which will be his last year of elementary school.  I cannot handle the thought of him leaving that environment.  Elementary school felt safe for him.  His teachers, the mostly innocent and friendly and understanding kids, the easy routine.  Middle school will be different.  Totally different set of students as none of his current friends will attend the same middle school as him.  Different school staff who don’t know and love him yet.  Totally different daily routine.  Different expectations.  Different with Jay is scary.  Why am I already stressing about next year?  I don’t know.

 

Things will settle down soon enough.  I will get over these feelings eventually.  My thoughts will become rational again.  I KNOW this because I’ve been down this road before.  More than once.  The feelings will pass as smoothly as they came.  And in this case, the knowing is the force holding me together and the best of life jackets.

 

 

~ Don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  Part 2 to follow soon ~

 

*Edited to add the link for part 2 —> Here

 

ADHD – What I don’t want for my son May 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 8:45 am
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ace in tree

 

“ADHD is an insidious demon. It demolishes your self-esteem, renders your dreams to shreds, and leaves you broken, bleeding, and alone. After enough time passes, after making the same mistakes over and over, you begin to believe the whispering lies.”

 

I didn’t write that, nor can I remember where I read it, but I do remember it was written by an adult with ADHD and I do remember feeling like I needed to hold onto those words.  They scared me.  I do not ever want my son to have low self-esteem.  He got a little taste of it at the end of kindergarten and it made me sad for him.  Luckily we got over that pretty quickly and we haven’t been down that road again.  Yet.  I do not want my son to feel like his dreams are unattainable.  I do not want him to EVER feel broken or alone.  I don’t want him to think that all we see are the “mistakes” he makes and the “trouble” that he gets into.  I don’t want his entire life to be about “no” or “be quiet” or “stop that and sit down” or “what is wrong with you?”

 

Ace’s behaviour in school is not getting better but the bigger issue is that as the school work is getting more difficult, he’s having a harder time staying focused enough to complete his assignments.  He can do the work.  He knows the answers.  He’s given extra time as a part of his 504 plan, but he’s still not able to complete his assignments in time and therefore his grades are suffering.

Also, it’s hard for him to control his impulses.  Even with him going to the Boys & Girls Club after school (he’s LOVING it by the way) and burning a ton of energy there, we still get reports of him doing things like climbing on the book shelves in the school library.

At home things can get just as treacherous but we’ve been lucky that all he’s had are a few bumps and bruises.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I know kids get bumps and bruises.  I got lots as a kid and CC and I have said that you didn’t enjoy your childhood if you didn’t get a few scars along the way.

But there is an extra wildness to Ace.  An out-of-control, haphazard, carelessness and unawareness.

That’s just not safe.

 

Taking into consideration all the things we hear from his teachers and therapists and doctors and all the things we know to be true, we have agreed to try him on a low dose of ADHD medication.

CC and I talked and thought and agonized long and hard over this.  I haven’t been sleeping well and my stomach has been in knots.

 

I have heard the horror stories.  I have read all the reasons not to do this.  I have seen the “anti-drug-companies” documentaries.  We have tried (and continue to try) Occupational Therapy.  We have tried changing his diet.  We have increased his physical activities. There have been accommodations at school.  There have been punishments for bad behaviour, rewards for good behaviour and a combination of both.

 

This was a difficult decision and one that we tried not to make.  But in the end, we want to give our child the best possible chance to live a happy and safe life and we agreed to this medication with one singular interest … What’s best for our son.

If we see ANYTHING that REMOTELY looks like a bad side effect, we will stop.

 

 

*****

To my dear sweet Ace, I hope you never feel like we are trying to change you into something or someone you are not.  I hope you never feel like we just didn’t want to do the work of being your parents.  We really LOVE your exuberance and excitement about life.  All we want is for you to be happy and healthy and we will do whatever we can to make you feel comfortable in your own skin.  We want YOU to be able to make your own choices about the things you do.  Not for your body to take over and then leave you picking up the pieces.  We wish for you an inner calm.

If this helps, then I am sorry that we took so long to come around and I’m sorry that you spent so much time struggling unnecessarily.

 

 

Diagnosis Day May 22, 2012

It’s a rainy day here in New Jersey.  I’m on edge.  I’ve been on edge for 5 days.  I’m trying to act like I’m not.  I make breakfast and I get dressed.  I smile and I fight to keep my voice even.  I don’t want CC or Ace to know that it feels like they’re hosting the Olympics in my stomach.

 

We walk down the stairs and I look at him.  Ace.  He looks so small.

Why does he look smaller today than on any other day?

 

I wonder to myself “why do my babies have to go through so much?”  He should be at school right now.  Learning fun things like how caterpillars turn into butterflies.  Instead, he’s on his way to see a Pediatric Neurologist.  He wasn’t supposed to go until July but due to a last minute cancellation and a conveniently timed phone call on my part, he got bumped up.

 

We’re sitting in the waiting room.  Ace, CC and myself.

I keep looking at Ace.  He has freshly cut toe nails.  He’s wearing a batman shirt and he’s playing with his transformers toy.  He’s happy … until he gets antsy.  We’ve been waiting for a while.  There’s paperwork business to take care of.

He wants a snack.  He wants juice.  He wants to know why they are taking so long.  He wants to go home.  He wants to know where the doctor is.  He tells me that he loves me.  He says he’s cold. (It’s not cold).  He wants more snacks and more juice. He asks to play with an old, washed out puzzle toy in the waiting room.  He fingers my earrings.  CC takes him to the bathroom.  He says he needs to tell me something and when I ask what it is he draws a blank.

I remember him telling me the night before that he feels sad when he is asked to be quiet and that talking makes him happy.

 

Two other families are in the waiting room with their sons.  It makes me sad.  I can’t stop wondering what brings those other boys here.  I know whatever it is, I would wish away if I could.  No-one wants to have to bring their child to see a Developmental Pediatrician or a Neurologist.

 

Then I hear a mom on the phone.  She’s arguing with someone.  She says … “I need to make sure this never happens again.  I need to understand why security was called instead of the child study team.”

Something catches in my throat.

OMG!

Her poor child.  What is that child dealing with?  It’s just not fair.

I count our blessings because we don’t have violent outbursts in our home.  My children don’t attack us or try to hurt themselves.

 

Then they tell us that it’s our turn to go see the doctor.

 

 

 

Long story short ……… Ace has been diagnosed with ADHD.  He hasn’t been prescribed any medication, so it’s business as usual at home and a 504 plan will be put in place for him at school.

Lord, please let it help!

 

That’s all I know for now.  We will take it one day at a time and see where this road leads us.

 

I force myself to exhale.