Firsts

Last night marked a huge step forward for Audrey. She attended her first high school formal dance. She decided the day before that she wanted to go because a handful of her friends were going together as a group. I was thrilled but also worried. I was worried she would get to the dance and panic. I was worried she would change her mind at the last minute. I was worried she would get there and not be sure how to interact or be too nervous to really engage and enjoy the night. There were about 3 mini-emotional upsets but they passed.

And she proved me wrong.We bought the perfect dress & shoes. I did her hair in simple curls. Her make up consisted of a modest tinted moisturizer, setting powder, and blush.She was beautiful and confidant and amazing. I couldn’t imagine this moment a year ago, but here it was.

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I have never been more excited for her, more nervous, and also more aware of how quickly she is growing up. I am thankful everyday for the moments she enjoys as a beautiful, happy, thriving young lady. I pray for her continued progress in treatment. I take nothing for granted with her and her life. I know there is uncertainty about her future and there will continue to be for years to come.

But for now, I cherish these moments. I cherish her smile and her happiness in feeling like she belongs. I cherish the fact that the veil of her illness can be lifted, even momentarily, for nights like this.

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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**

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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