Another Weekend Passed

It seems like the weekends go by in a blur. Between school work of my own, the kid’s school work, friends, activities with our church, and just trying to keep up with everyday life, Friday through Sunday all run together. Our lives are run by schedules, deadlines, and appointments that it feels like there is little to no time to stop and enjoy the life we have been blessed with.

I suppose being busy is better than being laden with boredom or solitude. Although, there are days when the idea of having nothing to do and nobody or obligations to attend to seems like a lofty dream, one I find myself wishing to come true. Don’t get me wrong, my life is full and good. I love my children, husband, and the family and friends that are a part of our lives. Lord knows where I’d be without any of them. However, I don’t feel it’s entirely selfish to want, and need, some personal time away from the hustle of everyday life. A day without kids complaining or fighting, a day without my phone ringing or an assignment being due, a day where my biggest concern is staying hydrated and enjoying my massage.

The blessings in my life are numerous, this I cannot deny. I’ve even learned to see blessings in things that would not be considered ‘good’ or even a blessing in disguise. It’s those moments, those encounters, and those situations that I see the opportunity for growth or to gain knowledge- both of which are blessings. Trials strengthen you. Hard times put your life into perspective. Worry, while I don’t see the feeling or manifestation of it as particularly beneficial, can bring you closer to sources of support and encouragement. I have learned to pursue God in these times of worry or uncertainty, to take difficult situations and use them as a guide for the future, and to take hard times on the chin because, if I can make it through (insert something less than enjoyable here) then I can make it through anything. It’s like strengthening an emotional and psychological muscle with God as my spotter.

But, muscles tire and hit a point of failure. You feel it a short time before it occurs but the signs are clear. Things you were doing with very little effort or thought start becoming harder to push through. There’s a little uncertainty in the choices and decisions you make, like wondering if you can really push through the next set. I get tired and weak, but at the same time I’m energized. My sleep pattern is all over the place because of this. My body and my emotions are spent but my mind doesn’t shut off.

Like regular exercise, it gets tiring after awhile; the routine, the monotony, and having to fight through everyday, sometimes by the hour, in order to provide a life to my children and to hopefully modeling to them how to live their own life. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t day where I wanted to quit; days when I would love nothing more than to not have to answer to “Mom” being called through the house, days when I didn’t end up in an argument over the words I say and how they were said, and days where I don’t have to hear the members of my family complaining or crying over the actions of another member in the family.

Peace. Calm. Just shut it all off. A long drive through the canyon. A weekend in a cabin. Focusing on refreshing my mind, body, and spirit. I could do all these things. I could find the time. It would be reasonable and justifiable. But, I don’t think I could shake the “Mom guilt” that is so often felt when I, or most mothers, do something for themselves. That’s the hard part.

So now, as the hours until dawn are getting closer, I’ll take a breath and ready myself for tomorrow. I’ll remember that this is the life I chose and I’ll remember all the good things that have from it. I take advantages of the learning opportunities as they present themselves, and I’ll flex my muscle. I talk to my spotter because without Him, nothing gets accomplished and I am at risk of hurting myself by pushing too far. I’ll finish my sets and complete the circuit. I’ll remember that the long-term rewards of my efforts far outweigh the short-term sacrifices I make. And I’ll see the blessing of it all.

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When You Just Don’t Know What To Do

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that my life is full of normal family issues, plus the added not-so-normal issues that come with having a child with mental illness. I love my daughter, I wish I could help her more, I wish she didn’t have to struggle they way she does sometimes, but mostly I wish she didn’t have a mental illness.

Most well-adjust people realize that when you become a parent, there is a sudden switch turned on in your brain to love, protect, & provide for your child. It’s primal, innate, and you can’t ignore it. It’s what tells you whether a crying baby is hungry or tired, needs a diaper change or has a gas bubble. It never goes away, it just adjusts to your child’s changing needs as they get older. Most people do anything in their power to make sure they are the best parent they can be and ensure their child is prepared to become an adult. It’s your job to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).

When you have a child with a fairly severe form of mental illness, you can do all the right things and still end up feeling like you’re failing. Some days, you just don’t know what to do. Take all the parenting books, advice from friends and family, and even some of the suggestions of doctors and toss it out the window. None of it will apply. You have to research and ask questions and advocate and get familiar with trial and error and make your own plan. In my case, you have to tell 3 different doctors that they’re wrong and keep looking for answers, get the right testing, get the right diagnosis- only to realize that things have gotten so bad that you have to have your child admitted to the state mental health hospital because everything you’ve done on an outpatient level isn’t effective. You know that despite your best efforts nothing outside of intensive inpatient treatment will benefit your 13 year-old daughter at that moment. So you make the hardest decision of your life and send her 80 miles away because you can’t help her anymore, you can’t protect her from herself, and you can’t provide what she needs.

Six months go by and great progress has been made. It’s like having a new child- literally 180* turn around. She’s happy, she’s smiling, cooperative, insightful, kind, loving, and has gained knowledge about herself. She has learned a bag full of “tricks” to be able to function outside the hospital. She gets to come home EXACTLY six months after her admission. As a parent you’re just so thankful to have her home, to have some sense of normalcy, and to have her feel better. Things are great and everyone is getting along and life is feeling right for the first time in a long time. Then the honeymoon ends.

Everyone has good days and bad days, and if they don’t they’re not normal. But recently I’m starting to realize that we’re (as a family) back to walking on eggshells and worrying about how to phrase even the simplest of words. The ups and downs have been more frequent and the bad days are starting to resemble life before hospitalization. I can tell when she’s letting her illness take over and speak for her and when she’s being a typical 14 year-old kid- most of the time. Then there are days when I just don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like maybe I’m dropping the ball somewhere, maybe I’m expecting to much, maybe I’m not expecting enough, or maybe her illness is evolving.

There are no easy answer when dealing with mental illness, especially when it comes to children and adolescents. Even more when it’s your child. I wish I could take it all away from her. She puts on a face of fearlessness and bravery, but she’s fragile and can be easily broken. I’ve cried so many tears over the last 18 months I don’t think I have any left, even when a good cry would really be nice. I worry about her future. I worry if she’ll be able to “adult” normally. I worry what will happen when I can’t make sure she takes her meds everyday or that she’s taking care of herself appropriately. Even when she makes me angry or upset because she’s said or done something to intentionally upset her sisters or mouths off to my husband, I keep telling myself silently that it’s going to be o.k. I remind myself that she can be kind and caring, compassionate and tender, my child yet a stranger.

I’ll never give up. I’ll always be pushing for more resources, more education, more awareness, and more strength. I’ll, WE, will get through the changes and the bad days. We’ll continue to celebrate small victories and learn from our setbacks. I’ll remember that this is my purpose her one earth. We’ll see the blessing in anything and everything, even the things that seem like they may break us.

I’m trying harder to “Let go, and let God”. I know that whatever I cannot handle only makes my trust in Him stronger and my faith even fuller. Even when I just don’t know what to do, He does.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”- Jeremiah 29:11

Lately…

Lately life has been, well, busy. Between three kids in school, being school full time myself, having our new fluff-ball Paisley, balancing being a mom & wife…

Lately Audrey has been stable. Ups, downs, good days and bad days, moments of sincere love, happiness and kindness, and also moments of confusion, blind anger, and disappointment in herself. Paisley starts her Puppy Obedience 101 in a couple weeks so I am hoping this will give her a sense of purpose and pride.

Lately I have an overly emotional middle child. She loves everyone so much but then would give anything for a few hours of peace and quiet. She would be content reading books in her sweats or riding her bike alone for a while. She tries so hard to be understanding and tenderhearted in a house where even the most patient person might get twitchy.

Lately my little eight year old has been dramatic. Like, really dramatic over little things. The puppy  scratched her- time to amputate. She has her behavior corrected- all the problems of the world are her fault. She is asked to do her chores- she’s an underpaid maid. She is told she needs to practice her addition and subtraction facts- she can’t do ANYTHING right. I’m not sure why she reacts the way she does. Everything is approached in a level headed manner and in an age appropriate way. The other day I literally just stared at her after trying calm her anxiety over something- I didn’t know what else to say or do. I just stared. On a positive note, she started swim classes and is loving them!

Lately my husband and I barely get anytime to be together alone. The kids are SLOW to get to bed, he works terrible hours (6 am to 330 pm), and has to be in bed by 10 pm in order to function properly the next day. I miss watching our guilty-pleasure TV shows, having time to just talk uninterrupted or to take a day off from everything and just be lazy together. Even with the kids in the house on lazy days we can still give each other some much needed attention. Tomorrow (or today, rather) is his 47th birthday. We’re going to try and get some one-on-one time in.

Lately school has my head spinning. I have a year left, and I just applied for an international internship to Israel. I prayed about it, thought about it, and considered all the logistics of how things would go here at home if I am accepted into the program (which is a short term trip of only 11 days). Deep down I know this is a chance of a lifetime for me; I want this internship so badly. I also became a consultant for Thirty-One Gifts, a company specializing in organizational products, storage products, small purse & wallet line, and a small jewelry line. I was drawn to this company after a friend hosted a fundraiser for our family to help with the costs of getting a service dog. I loved their products and when I realized how much they give back to other organizations every month, it nudged me over the edge. This month they are donating  $75,000 to the Nationwide Childrens Hospital to fund behavioral health research & treatment for young girls. Clearly a topic near and dear to my heart. I am already off to a great start- and no I’m not plugging my business info in here. If you want it, just ask.

Lately I have realized that my family and I are blessed. Yes, life is difficult at times and there are days where I do want to “quit”, but when I put things into perspective it becomes clear that things could really be so much worse. I can get an education and so can my daughters. I can walk safely down my streets without worrying about a civil war going on in my town. I can worship freely. I can help others even when I’m having a bad day. Everyday I am given a new chance to be a better version of myself; to love better, to parent better, to learn better, and to give better. I can access healthcare for myself and my family. I wouldn’t mind a few upgrades in some areas but I have a good life and am thankful in all things.

Lately, when I think I have nothing left to give, God gives me the strength to keep moving on.

Lately, life has been good.

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