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.

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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So, so tired…

I love my life. I love my family. I love my kids. I love who I am and what I am.

But I am tired.

I am not using this blog as a place to be negative or complain about my life. I know that my life has a plan and a purpose, and in the long game everything will make sense. But sometimes even knowing that can’t help me get past days like today.

I’ve regained my desire to help at the kid’s school, something I couldn’t do much of last year given my family situation and trying to just be there while my daughter was being diagnosed. I’m doing some testing with elementary kids, getting to interact with adults again, and even have about a week of substituting lined up over the next couple of months.

I love subbing. Seriously, I never imagined I would enjoy subbing for high school kids as much as I do. Then again, this happens to be an exceptional group of kids. I’m in my fall term of classes and have one year left to get my B.S. in Developmental Psychology. I love school and am proud of how well I have done this far.

My husband and I are trying to have more couple time and even branch out to make new friends or join a small group at church. This is kind of a big deal since Shane isn’t super social nor was he raised the same religion as me (he was raised Roman-Catholic, we currently attend a Bible based non-denominational Christian church). Together we are trying to make time for each kid one-on-one, along with family time. This can be a bit of a task due to Audrey’s disorders but we try as hard as we can, using the best methods that we know.

I know this all sounds like normal family stuff, normal life stuff, normal human stuff. But it’s not. It’s takes every ounce of my strength mentally, physically, and especially emotionally to make life happen sometimes. Now is one of those times. I feel beat down, somewhat defeated, and I am almost positive someone is playing some kind of psychologically based warfare with me. Frankly, today they’re winning.

I’m a touch chick. I’ve been baptized by fire, graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, fought back against intellectuals in order to get the right treatment and diagnoses for my daughter, and I’ve faced down some proverbially ugly people quite successfully. But I’ve never faced an adversary quite like this. Attempting to hold some semblance of sanity and normalcy while having a child with mental health issues.

My daughter Audrey didn’t ask for her disorders and I am by no means resentful, upset, angry, or otherwise irritated that she is who she is. I’m just tired. If you read the links, it’s no easy task caring for a teen with these mental health disorders but we manage. I think the challenge of trying to balance everything else in life concurrently is where it gets complicated. Trying to share yourself, your time, and pieces of your life as equally as possible is like a second job. Trying to have friends and hobbies is almost impossible. Making sure you have friends that truly and genuinely understand your family life and who also want to be a part of your life regardless of the possibility of seeing the not-so-great side is even harder.

I look at people who deal with just “normal” teen stuff or “normal” family stuff, parents who can leave their 14 & 13-year-old at home without sitters, or those who can have the older sibling watch the younger sibling, and one of three things happen.

Scenario one: (a good day) I remember that we are each given the life we have for a purpose and I am doing a pretty damn good job with managing my purpose. I try to be a supportive friend with insight and advice.

Scenario two: (a “meh” day) I actually wish I had their problems. I wish for “normal” issues, I almost envy what they are dealing with. Pretty pathetic.

Scenario three: (a not-so-good day)  I have literally said “I know exactly what you mean because this is what I am currently juggling…..” and then proceed to try to convey that their life may have ups and down but I literally live in a state that inherently comes with an amount of uncertainty. I don’t like those days or how it feels. I’m pretty sure nobody else does either.

So, for those of you who have had to deal with me on those days- my deepest apologies.

I feel like I could sleep for 4 days. Sometimes I want to start crying at things that don’t warrant my tears. Certain days I want to use my mini-van in a demolition derby (which I feel pretty confident that I could win). I could also use a month-long vacation somewhere quiet, kid-free, sunny & sandy with an endless supply of umbrella garnished drinks.

The saying that “God never gives you more than you can handle” is one I have never subscribed to. I truly believe God gives us more than we can handle in order to learn to lean on Him and allow Him to guide and strengthen us. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

I am reminded by this passage that I can find rest and comfort by letting go and letting God be in control (as He should be). It’s not easy; no human wants to admit weakness or the need for help. But I don’t have the energy to be prideful *laughing*.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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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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.

girl fight

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