And that’s a wrap…for two days

We Made it Through Another Week

I know families do this, well, weekly but there are times when getting through seven days seems like a small miracle. I have learned to celebrate these things- small miracles- as they are often HUGE depending on your situation or lifestyle.

I finished my last week of summer classes. I’m now a Senior in college at the tender age of 34, and have a two day reprieve until Fall semester starts. I celebrated with a bowl of Cherry Chocolate Chip ice cream from Farr’s Ice Cream. This ice cream is utter amazingness- creamy and smooth cherry ice cream, chocolate shavings, and huge halves of maraschino cherries. Ah, the simple things in life. I may not get two A’s like I normally do in my classes but in my defense this has been a summer of adjustments. I’ll take the B’s and be okay with it. I did another DIY project by painting Laila’s old bookshelf (who received a new one courtesy of her grandparents) and giving it to Tessa. It went from oak to sparkling purple. Nothing a little spray paint and glitter clear coat can’t do!

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Audrey tried out for the volleyball team at school. This in itself is a small miracle. She’s never played volleyball on a team or in any other aspect than fulfilling the requirement in PE. Additionally, Audrey isn’t exactly what one would consider athletically inclined. But she stuck out 3 days of clinics, came home sore & bruised, and had a good attitude about it. She didn’t make the team, which I know she was disappointed, but she handled it quite well. Really well, actually, and I am happy she at least tried something new. She now wants to try out for basketball in November….stay tuned.

basketball

Laila took a quiz in math that was intended to gauge where everybody was as far as their math knowledge heading into 8th grade. She already knew 50% of the material! She was quite pleased with herself and I was happy she was feeling confident. She changed her ceramics class to Musical Production, so watch for her first leading role on Broadway 🙂

Broadway

Tessa only had 3 1/2 days of school this week but she’s off to a good start. Oh to be in 3rd grade again… This year she’ll not only be in choir but learning the recorder. You can’t imagine the excitement I feel inside about that *insert face palm here* I suppose this is a right of passage for both her and me. Besides, she’s my youngest. By the time she is in 7th grade Audrey will have graduated high school, and Laila will be Senior. Time is slipping through my fingers much faster than I anticipated.

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All in all we’re just at normal right now. Normal is weird for me. Normal doesn’t feel right. I anticipate I will begin to embrace it, but when you’ve been through what my family and I have been through, normal is scary. You’re waiting for the bomb to drop almost all the time but you have to remind yourself that this is a new era, and to enjoy the normal as unfamiliar as it may seem.

**We are still fundraising for Audrey to receive her service dog. If you are so inclined to share, please do so! Just click the link above**

Daily Prompt: Cheat

Cheat

I suppose this is a good way to get a little more creative with my writing. So here it goes…

According to Merriam-Webster cheat is a verb meaning:

  • to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something
  • to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule
  • to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get

In life we can all think of some situation where this word would be an apt description of how things played out or how we felt about the end result. Often times this word can have a negative connotation to it but I can see it in a much more positive light when put in the right context.

The third definition could also be used in a situation where grace is being extended.

  • b :  a virtue coming from God
  • c :  a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
  • d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
  • e :  a temporary exemption
  • unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

When you look at this definition, especially “a temporary exemption” is being made, cheat can become a pretty positive thing. Speaking in terms of faith and religion, God cheats people all the time. He withholds what people deserve & expect. Instead being cheated though, God offers grace to all who seek Him.

People are born into a state of sin and without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ all people on this earth would get exactly what they deserve and what most would expect: punishment and condemnation. However, through grace people are not given these things. Even better, grace from God is not a temporary exemption but rather eternal and whole. In terms of salvation, I’m glad we are cheated out of what we deserve and should expect as a result of living sinfully.

Grace or being cheated can be extended to life circumstances as well. Maybe a person doesn’t get the promotion they were hoping or expecting, perhaps accolades are withheld when they are truly deserved, or maybe you were expecting to make your flight. At the initial occurrence of being cheated out of these things, it would be easy to feel upset or let down and disappointed. But what if these instances of being cheated turned out to be acts of grace?

The person who got the promotion got caught up in bad inside business with the company and lost their job, or went to jail. By not receiving the accolades someone works harder and pushes themselves beyond what they previously had done to achieve results that are one hundred times better than before, leading to a lifetime of change in society in someway. Because that person missed that flight they also avoided a disastrous plane crash and went on to live a full, and happy life.

Being cheated or a cheat in some way doesn’t necessarily mean that life is altered for the worse. Hindsight would say to see it as grace and being spared some sort of result. Grace says withholds things that may be deserved out of love and spares people from pain that may not have been expected.

Perspective is everything. Cheated, grace- no matter how you call it, there are times it’s exactly what we need.

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Trying New Things & Worry, Worry, Worry…

Audrey’s first week of school went well, and I couldn’t be more thankful. She appears to be starting out on the right foot with organization, a good attitude, and loosening up a little more every day. This week is volleyball tryout’s. She wants to try-out and I am going to let her. If any of you know Audrey’s history with athletics, ankle issues, and basic issues with gravity then you can understand my concerns there. Then there’s the whole aspect of whether or not she makes the team. I know how failure and rejection can affect her. I just hope and pray she knows how to handle it if she doesn’t make the team, but also enjoys the experience and gains confidence from it.

She’s a little more uptight at home and we’re struggling with sibling relationships and communication overall. Respect for our parents and knowing how to act appropriately for a 14 y.o. has become a bit of an issue. Not unexpected given her age but compounded with all the other things makes every emotional event amplified. Some days I feel like the Great Wall of Siblings needs to be built to keep them from invading each others territories. I’m also starting to think that a total non-interference stance (at least with the older two) might not be the worst parenting idea. They are old enough to communicate, they have been taught general manners, Audrey has skills to use, and Laila for the most part (MOST part) will do what’s necessary to get the argument over with. Tessa is so young she’ll just go with what her siblings want…rainbows will come out…unicorns will walk the backyard…and I’ll wake up to a closet full of my favorite clothes with a week of perfect make-up…

Wow. That brief trip to La La Land was amazing.

Anyway, something has to give at some point. Whether they figure out how to function together or we instate Marshal Law at the homestead. Luckily, I have Shane to help me & calm me, my parents to give me a break, and the good Lord to turn to in any situation.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

The First Day of School and Victory Over Your Opponent

Victory: success in defeating an opponent or enemy; the act of defeating an opponent or enemy

For most people this means beating an opposing team, military opponent, or political rival. For people like Audrey it means making it through the day without letting her opponent- a part of herself that she see’s in the mirror everyday and has to battle with on a daily basis. This can be from everything like clothing and how they fit, feelings of being judged by family, friends, or even strangers, and sudden feelings of sadness, abandonment, isolation, & unsubstantiated fears and anxiety over minute situations.

Today Audrey started back at her first secondary school, a school she has never been able to complete a full year at due to her mental health disorders suddenly becoming full blown. Today Audrey celebrates a victory over her opponent and not only completed her first day of school without any incident, she did so with what would be considered minimal emotional dysregulation and a great deal of control. Were there tears? Yes. Were there insults thrown at me out of frustration stemming from something else? Yes. Did her BPD traits of being pissed at me but not wanting to leave me show through? Absolutely. But she was still victorious over all of the emotions, habits, thinking errors, and physiological attributes that were fighting against her.

We left the house with Audrey having her emotions under control- victory. We arrived at school 10 minutes before classes began, and even though she was still nervous, she had a small smile one her face and didn’t hesitate to leave the car- victory. She didn’t call home during the day- victory. She didn’t need to go to any of her designated “chill out” zones- victory. She came home without a complaint about a teacher or class (so far)- victory. She came home with a smile on her face- victory. She is preparing for school tomorrow without signs of anxiety or unwillingness (granted, that could all change in the morning)- victory.

Today Audrey was victorious over her greatest opponent.

I am unbelievably proud of Audrey. I was probably just as nervous about today as she was and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I received the few phone calls I did today my mind instantly went “Oh Lord, here it is!” or “It’s Audrey…”. I’m so thankful I was wrong every time.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) feels like the perfect verse to sum up the emotions and outcome of today, “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.” 

It Really Does Take a Village

School starts on Wednesday. I can remember being bummed that summer was over but I always enjoyed school and enjoyed going back for a variety of reasons. My 2nd daughter Laila is the same way, and I think my youngest Tessa will be as well (fingers crossed).

Audrey is NOT excited. She has been a nervous wreck for a week. The mere mention of school brings a look of terror and dread to her face. I am already imagining how Wednesday morning is going to go, feel like, what is going to be said, how long tears will be shed, how much anxious irritation I will face down, and how understanding and patient I will have to be. I will literally have to pull off being the Super Mom of emotional compassion and control. Luckily, I’ve been reading a book called “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me” by Dr. Jerold J. Kreisman & Hal Strauss, and it has given me a lot of insight on how the mind of someone with BPD works. I’ve also been reading up on DMDD, & Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and anxious about the first day of school myself.

I spoke to Audrey recently, after registering her for 9th grade, about school and reminded her about her options if she is having a “moment” or needs to “take a walk” through the halls. That conversation reminded me of the many wonderful people God has placed in our life in order to help Audrey succeed.

Even though it took awhile Audrey has an amazing treatment team to help with the medical aspect of her disorders. We have a wonderful psychiatrist that is honest, transparent, talks to Audrey like a person instead of a patient, and makes us feel valued as a team. He listens to my thoughts on medications and doesn’t just throw pills at us as a first line of treatment. I am so thankful for him. Since Audrey came home from the state hospital she has seen a new therapist at a new clinic. It is the same clinic that finally gave us the diagnoses I felt matched her behaviors, and put us on the path that has led us to where we are today. Her therapist is an awesome woman who doesn’t just listen to Audrey and give feedback but challenges her thinking errors, asks about how Audrey can take control of situations, and really optimizes on the opportunities that present themselves during their sessions. She gives Audrey homework and keeps me in the loop as we move along. Again, so thankful for her. Without this team, Audrey wouldn’t be able to maintain her mental stability and function as well as she is now.

I can’t say enough positive things about Audrey’s school. From students, teachers, staff, and administrators – every person who knows Audrey and her situation has been compassionate, kind, thoughtful, sympathetic but encouraging. Audrey’s favorite teacher was a pillar of strength and understanding when things first starting to “go downhill”. She will have him for 2 classes this year and is the only teacher, or person really, that she has freely smiled at since being at the school several times. The Director of Secondary Education has made it clear that she has multiple places to go if she needs to talk or to take a breather. He has seen what mental illness can do to a person and despite the goofy, sarcastic front he wears, he has shown a level of care you don’t typically see in a school setting. I get a little more relief knowing he’s there, he’s got her back, and he won’t let her self destruct at school. Then there’s the front office staff, Lori and Brie. Honestly, if anyone would be willing and able to step in when needed it would be them. School hasn’t even started and Lori has already said that if Audrey needs anything she’d take care of her and let her decompress there. Last but not least, the counseling department. The three ladies that work in there must eat their Wheaties every morning in order to deal with everything that comes their way on a daily basis. There’s a couch for people who just need to reframe and refocus, and their doors are always open (unless they’re closed for some official reason). Without all of these people, and some I may not have mentioned, Audrey may not be returning to traditional school. They give me hope for her future and genuinely care about her educational goals along with her social success at school. Couldn’t be more thankful for these people!!

Family. I’ll just say right now that if I hadn’t had my parents around since Audrey was a baby, and especially since her disorders culminated last year, I don’t know where I’d be today. I don’t know if my other kids would still like me. I don’t know if my husband would have stuck around so willingly. Seriously people, my parents offered encouragement, breaks, help with my other kids, stepped in when I needed surgery, & visited Audrey on weekends when we couldn’t make it down. More importantly, they reminded me two things: 1) Hardships make us stronger and build our character, they bring us closer to God and teach us what real hope is; this applies to me as a mother, Audrey, and anyone else who has been fortunate enough to witness the amazing healing that has taken place in her mind (although she will always have a uniqueness to her). 2) God gave me Audrey because He knew that I would be able to provide for her in her time of need, and I would never let her down. I would cry for her, be strong for her, be upset an scared for her, celebrate with her and for her, and I would never stop working for her. Nobody is more equipped than I am to care for Audrey (even on days when “I Just Can’t Win”). My parents saw a strength and drive in me that I didn’t know I had until March of 2015. I didn’t always use those attributes the right way and sometimes I was weak and weary. My parents were always there to kick me in the butt and tell me I didn’t have time to wallow in pity. I had a job to do, and they would help me do it.

My church family offered prayers, would see Audrey, and were just supportive. The spiritual and faith part of life is so important. Even if it seems like not much is being done, it is probably the most potent part of the village that has surrounded us.

Life is hard enough when you are one person trying to navigate things on your own; it’s even harder when you’re trying to care for someone with a mental health disorder and you THINK you can do it alone. It really does take a village, just remember that village when they reach out to you for help someday. I know I can never do enough to say thank you for all the loving support we have received in the last 18 months, and all the future months to come.

To my village: Thank you. We couldn’t have gotten through this or this far without you. I am beyond blessed to have you and couldn’t be more thankful for all you have done.

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And Then There Are The Days Where I Just Can’t Win

Today I was pretty sure a cage match was going to break out between my oldest girls. Hormones weren’t even involved. We were all doing a little cleaning and organizing, and I was trying to catch up on some school work (did I mention I am in college full time, online of course). Basically everything Laila did set off Audrey; either crying, yelling, accusatory, or suddenly dragging me into it demanding I correct my parenting skills. We hadn’t had a day like this is a long time.

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Audrey couldn’t, or wouldn’t, tell me what was causing her irritability. Things ranged from “I hate you!” to “I can’t stand being near her, it makes my blood boil” to “I hope you move to California!” (this is where their biological dad is). Anger and deflection is a key trait and defense mechanism of someone with DMDD and BPD. Intentionally saying things to hurt, demean, and otherwise be unbearable to put it simply. Laila is very sensitive, she’s not always innocent and is a typical younger sibling, but gets very hurt by her sisters words and actions. So I also had to manage the emotional 13 year old in the midst of what was becoming Mt. St. Audrey. When I step in to try and get them to communicate I’m either taking sides, or didn’t witness everything so I have to do my best with what information I have (and can see as plausible, possible, or probable). Stuck in the middle.

Audrey can’t take Benzo’s (Xanax, etc) as it causes a severe allergic reaction in her nervous system. We have to rely on her using her DBT #DBT skills, us using our family skills, and a homeopathic route called Bach Flower Therapy. It works great and has no interference with any other meds or side effects.

She had a few “collect yourself” moments, a phone call to Gramma to get everything off her chest. She eventually calmed down and apologized (still don’t know the root cause of it all).

I had a few “I’m a terrible parent” & “I’m not equipped for this” & “Why can’t she see I want to help?” moments. I may have shed a tear or two as well. There are days I want to quit. Not leave permanently but go on holiday, call in a sub, tap out for a round…you get the idea. I love my kids. I love my kids. (repeat, repeat, repeat)

Since that’s not an option I usually get my husband to make a run to Fiiz (a soda joint with fabulous recipes) and to pick me up something sweet because I love all things sugary.

Today was a rough day, tomorrow will be better (?).

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Winning and Facing the Future

Winning comes in many forms. For some it’s crossing a finish line or beating a clock. For others it’s scoring more points than the other team or winning the play-offs. For others still it’s a good grade, being valedictorian of their class, or getting accepted into the college of their choice.

Then there’s what I call small victories; still a win but something most people don’t think about. It’s getting up and ready for the day without panicking because the pair of shorts you had picked out have a stain you didn’t see.It’s going back into the house 4 times to get everything for the day without becoming angry at yourself, or taking it out on another person. A small victory is facing disappointment and not letting feel like the end of the world, even though 9 months ago your whole day would’ve been shot. Knowing what ‘happy’ is, how is feels, and how to obtain that feeling. Understanding emotions like sad, upset, hurt, or scared and knowing what they FEEL LIKE, how they are different, accepting the moment, and knowing how to handle it without losing your sh*t. Going 6 months without self-harming or having the urge to- that’s a win. It’s something you mark on your calendar or write about in your journal or share with your family and friends. That is winning.

Did you know that in 6 months at a state mental health hospital, a good one at least, a patient gets enough education in different therapy skills that if they apply themselves they could earn a certificate in that specific therapy set? My daughter can tell me the concepts and applications of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT, #DBT) almost verbatim. She can tell other people of her choosing how they work and which coping skills help with various types of emotional states. More importantly she can use these skills. She HAS to use these skills daily in order to live the life she has worked so hard for. Knowledge and understanding is one thing but applying skills in times of high emotional states is another. Hell, I think it’s something most people without mental illness struggle to do. Another winning moment for her.

School starts in 11 days. I’m terrified. I’m holding on to optimism and praying that we are taking the right steps and making the right decisions but this will be the first change in her routine since coming home- it’s been summer break for her since her discharge. It will be her first step back into a ‘normal’ school setting, albeit a charter school that is much smaller than regular public school, and her first time facing a large social group. Right now she’s decided not to talk to anyone but her one very good friend, and that everyone else is stupid/mean/stuck up or some other unpleasant form of a person. This is called splitting and it’s a fairly normal occurrence with situations related to interacting with family, friends, or other personal relationships. You’re either glorious or the devil. On a winning note, she gets past this type of black & white thinking quite quickly. She is rigid in new environments and needs a routine and schedules, but has become more flexible and able to live “in the gray area” where things aren’t always concrete. Another win.

She’s still anxious and gets a little more so as the first day of school approaches. I’m still terrified for her and about facing the future for the first time outside the safety and confines of our home. She tries to talk to me about it- a win- but verbalization isn’t her strong point. I just listen then try to clarify without making it seem like I wasn’t listening or I’m just dumb and don’t understand. Some days neither of those are accomplished but she knows I love her and she loves me. That’s a big win because 9 months ago you would’ve though I was her sworn enemy (by her standards and views, not mine). So we’ll take this first step toward a ‘new normal’ and pray for guidance. We’ll pray for wisdom. We’ll pray for focus and emotional strength. We won’t pray for patience because I think we all know what happens when you do that…

When we don’t win, we will learn. When we do win, we will take note as to why & try to apply it as often as possible. And when it seems like we just can’t get anywhere, we’ll wait for a door to open or a new opportunity to reveal itself.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ.”

WINNING

What is Trapped Amazingness?

“I wish I was dead so I could stop feeling like this!”- Audrey, 8 years old

Yes, before life was ever complicated or hormones or boys or the angst of the teenage years started, my sweet child wished for death. She didn’t understand the anger, the confusion, the pain, or how to reconcile knowing she was different but not knowing HOW she was different. She had just begun to experience all the wonderful things life had to offer in the microcosm that was her world in our small town in Northern Utah.

Audrey had always been a little “different”. I had inquired over her early years about various attributes that seemed a little off but was always told that since she was developing within the norm that I shouldn’t worry, so I tried to squash the feelings of concern and did my best to be a good mom. She was loving, active, a little quiet and reserved, but enjoyed life. She had a great imagination and in general got along well with her younger sister, Laila.

As she got a little older, her silly and playful demeanor started to give way to surprising anger and an overall feeling of being difficult for the sake of being difficult. She was had become overall unpleasant with moments of normalcy in between. Meltdowns, refusal to wear certain clothing, anxiety at new or unplanned activities, and a lack of empathy  or understanding of other people’s feeling began to appear. These emotional highs were eventually followed-up with crying, guilt, and serious feelings of worthlessness. I didn’t understand what was happening to my daughter, so I clearly couldn’t expect her to explain it me nor understand it herself.

It was at 8 years old she began outpatient therapy. It seemed to help even her mood out and gave me and me husband tools on how to deal with her in the most effective manner possible. This type of therapy went on for 4 1/2 years with adjustments being made as her symptoms changed in type and severity. Her only official diagnoses were unspecified anxiety, mild depression, ADHD inattentive type, but these didn’t explain the meltdowns and the mood related issues. Over these 4 years, we watched her slowly change from a flourishing child to an awkward, insecure, and floundering young lady. We were beginning to have explosive arguments that came out of know where and stemmed from what would be considered small issues to your regular child.

Finally, at almost 13 in March 2015, Audrey came to us (her parents) and admitted to wanting to die and having tried to do so on several occassions. This would be the first of three emergency admissions to the adolescent mental heath unit over the next 8 months. The first stay was 4 days with a one month period of recovery. Her second admission lasted 17 days due to the severity of the incident that put her in the hospital and how long it took to stabilize her. Her diagnosis was changed to anxiety, depression, and Disruptive Mood Dyregulation Disorder. After that she was in a residential facility for 2 months due to how much she had deteriorated mentally and emotionally. My husband and I had little to no resources or help in educating ourselves in this change of behavior and diagnoses. Her residential facility was not tailored to her specific needs and she came home in July of 2015. From there we put her in a day treatment program; she attended school half-day and then had theraputic  activites for the other half. She had group, one-on-one, and family therapy, and came home at night. She attended this program for 6 weeks and made some progress, and eventually went back to her regular school in the fall just 2 weeks after it started. While she had made some more improvements and showed signs of making a cognitive connection to her behavior and how it related to it effected her path in life, relationships, and future- we were guardedly optimistic. We had been able to get a full psychological examination by a highly recommended and respected clinic in our area.

Six weeks after leaving day treatment Audrey had her final admission to the inpatient unit. It was the worst night of my life, and one she actually barely remembers. Multiple police officers were involved, a physical altercation, an attempt at hitting my husband with and iron fence rod, trying to run away at 10 pm in her nightgown and barefoot, & cocking back to punch a police officer. She actually threw an item at a social worker and ended up with security posted outside her room.This stay lasted 21 days and less than a week later we got the results of her psychological testing back. She had co-occuring diagnoses of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, anxiety, depression, and emerging traits of Borderline Personality Disorder.

The entire word stopped and everything made perfect sense but was also spinning out of contro at the same time. The hospital would not release her without a long term treatment plan due to the threat she posed to herself and others (at the time). This resulted in her admission to the state mental health hospital. She was gone for 6 months. Audrey lost out on the last 6 weeks of 7th grade, basically all of 8th grade, missed out on a couple family trips, could not come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, and missed visiting her dad during her normal visitation time. She missed her sister’s birthday.

So, what is Trapped Amazingness? It’s the person and possibilities being suffocated by their mental illness. It’s all the abilities they poccess but cannot execute because of the strangling set of emotional and mental ties that hold a person back on every level of life. It’s the loss of friendships, the institutionalized behavior that a child develops after being hospitalized for 6 months. It’s feeling like you’re labeled as “broken” forever and not being able to do anything to change their minds. Trapped Amazingness is losing the passion you once had for things like music, art, and theatre because of not wanting people to see “YOU”. It’s making incredible, amazing, and mind-blowing progress in your therapy but ending up in the same place in your head- paralyzed with fear, filled with doubt, angry for no reason, and wishing you could avoid the whole world.

Trapped Amazingness is all the beautiful things Audrey is and able to do being wrapped tightly in her head, stuck as ideas and dreams. Trapped Amazingness trickles down to the effects it has on her sisters and family. It’s trying to explain to family and friends the situation she’s facing, and the situation your family is dealing with. Trapped Amazingness is breaking down the walls of being stigmatized. It’s knowing she may miss out on the wonderful, beautiful, and life changing places, chances, and people of this world. Even more troublesome is that Trapped Amazingness is having her light shadowed enough that the world may end up missing out on a truly amazing young lady with so much so offer.

Don’t get me wrong, we now have hope for Audrey’s future. She has a real chance to live a productive life and accomplish those goals and dreams. We have faith that since she has come this far, God will take her even further. I’ll explain the changes that took place during her treatment in another blog.

mental-health-art-newspaper-head-billy

 

So, blogging…

It’s like having a job but you don’t get paid, and you have to set your own hours. And since you’re the boss nobody’s going to write you up…

Which means it falls low on the priority list unfortunately and it really shouldn’t. I find writing quite therapeutic, outside of school assignments, and could have really used this outlet over the last year or so. I have a lot to catch you all up on but I figured that for those of you who don’t know me or my totally amazing life that this would be a good time to fill you in before I delve into the deep stuff.

Annie! (me)

I’m 34 years old and married to an incredible man, Shane. I had been married before and have three great daughters, all of whom have their own unique personality that truly adds to how our family functions (or dysfunctions at times). I’m one year away from completing my bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology and am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom. I get to substitute at my kids school occasionally and do volunteer work there- it’s one of my favorite things! I’m a CA native but have been in Utah for just over 9 years and love it. I like going back to see my family and friends, and to enjoy the things CA has to offer but Utah is home for me. In what little spare time I have I like to cook and bake, take walks and go bike riding, travel, shop, hang out with my family including my parents who live near by, listening to music, movies, and being an adrenaline junkie. I’m not overly deep but I’m not completely superficial either. I like honesty, integrity, people who are real, food, and my animals- which consists of one lovable German Shepard and four birds (don’t judge me). God is my rock and my strength; without Him I wouldn’t be here finally writing this first blog.

Shane (my main squeeze)

I’ll keep this short and simple because that’s how we roll. Shane is amazing. He never had kids of his own and he volunteered to marry me and my brood after multiple warnings. Seriously. My own father made sure he had done some soul searching, I warned him about life with girls, and I’m pretty sure other people questioned his sanity. Six years later, including four years of marriage, and I don’t know where I’d be without him. He’s nerdy, smart, funny, crude (which I blame on being in the Navy for 6 years), loving, patient, kind, sarcastic, & doesn’t pull punches. He’s stepped into the roll of dad and has done a great job. It’s not always easy, especially with teenage girls and a younger sister who emulates them, but he’s still here. He works hard and enjoys nerdy games on the computer or in the form of board games (which has grown on almost all of us). He adds a nice perspective to things and brings in a calming nature to my, um, rambunctious tendencies. He’s the peanut butter to my jelly.

Audrey

Audrey is my oldest daughter. She experienced all my inexperience as a parent and taught me how to be a mother to an actual human being. She’s brilliant and kind, loving and difficult, sees beauty in things most of us don’t even notice but if often trapped inside her own mind. She is the reason I decided to blog and finish my college degree. She is the reason I made a lot of personal changes and decided to grow as a person. Being her mother made me see a side of society that was ugly and unnerving, while seeing a side that offered support and kindness. She made me develop a deeper understanding of God, the world, what brokenness is and what it has done to humanity. She’s one of the bravest, strongest, most resilient people I know. I’ll save her story for another blog. Audrey loves animals, reading, art, crafts, her grandparents, and swimming. She’s a beautiful girl inside and out.

Laila

I don’t even know where to start with this kid. She’s independent, smart, funny, charming, daring, loving, a butthead, tender, and tough all in one. She’s always been m easy going child with grand ideas. She doesn’t worry much about the future and pretty much goes with the flow. She loves special effects make up and practicing on Shane. She has a caring and serving heart but will also irritate her sisters with the same level of commitment. She’s artistic and great in math and science, but loves history and theater. She’s my social butterfly and mini-me. She keeps me grounded and reminds me that life is not just what is going to happen but is what is happening now. She’s got a sense of humor that would make a Buckingham Palace guard break.

Tessa

My baby. This little red head is basically too smart for her own good, in part of the 258 questions she asks on a daily basis. She loves her sisters and Shane. She’s a little less adventurous than her sisters but loves roller coasters. If you look up the definition of “rock hound” in the dictionary you will find her face. She brings them home from everywhere! She’s as stubborn as the day is long but also loves to help me do things in the kitchen. There’s a good chance she’ll grow up to bean evil genius but I’m working on changing that. She’s incredibly funny but again, stubborn. She’s very loving but can also hold a grudge like I’ve never seen before. I wouldn’t change her for the world.

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Tessa and electricity…questionable combination
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Me and Laila (mini-me)
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Old picture of Audrey, but still one I love.
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“It’s real love, yes it’s real…” -The Beatles
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I’m the one on the left. I was chaperoning prom and it was awesome!

After a lot of thought…

It’s taken a long time for me to get the level of comfort and courage to start this blog.  It isn’t a decision I came to lightly, or one that will continue to be an easy thing to keep up with, but it was definitely a decision that needed to be made. I want to take this opportunity to share the story of my family, and the effects of severe mental illness in one of our children. I want to being awareness to adolescent mental health issues, and to let other families know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You’ll get to know a little about each of us; how uniquely strange, funny, happy, emotional, broken, and complete we are as a family. You’ll get a look at how our faith in Christ has gotten us through the worst days you could imagine, and how thankful we are we were brought together.

There will be posts about the beginning when things were normal and life was relatively easy, and there will be posts about some of the hardest, darkest, and most difficult times we have faced as a family. This story isn’t one that has ended, so in many ways you will be able to see how things progress for us as individuals and as a family. I want each person going through similar situations to know that there is hope, there is help, and there is a way to see the truly amazing person trapped inside the brain and emotions that control them on a daily basis.