sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist, an unschooler, and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’

Family Road Trip

We left Charlotte at 7am Friday morning.

Four people, suitcases, bags and bags of snacks: gluten free foods, fresh brewed tea sweetened with local honey

Missing a family member, oldest son, home to take care of dogs, attend work and school

Been a long time, four and a half years to be exact, since we traveled to St. Louis

I drove first

Road trip playlist on Spotify

Chai tea with coconut milk, caffeinated chai

When did i become a morning person?

When did I become a morning person who needs her caffeine in the morning to get her day going?

Writing

Time to myself

Music

Starting my day

Time with my husband and two younger kids

Seeing my husband with his family, in his element, relaxed, being the jokester among a family of self proclaimed comedians

Eye rolls from my sixteen year old daughter

“That’s how I know I am doing my job”

Nieces and nephews, who are my age, with children, teenagers of their own

I can’t stand to fly

I’m not that naive

I’m just out to find

The better part of me

Family

Nearly 24 years ago, I married my husband and became a Grothoff

I joined this family

Three new brother-in-laws and four sister-in-laws

Eleven nieces and nephews, from age 8 through age through age 23

Now,

Twenty-four years later… age 32 through age 47, with children of their own

Sixteen great nieces and nephews, if I counted correctly….

Playing with Andrew, age 18 months

Feels like a hundred years since I had a toddler of my own

My youngest is nine…

“9 going on 40” as his aunt said yesterday

Speaking up

Speaking up for my child

Speaking up for my child with social anxiety

Allowing

Allowing him to go off and be alone

Overwhelmed by all these people he does not know

He was four years old when he was last here in St. Louis

He was four years old when he met most of these relatives

That was half his life ago…

It was a house full

They were not all here, several live in Texas and some could not come

Nineteen people, not including us…

Only five other kids, two of them being teens

Family

Large families

I grew up with a large extended family

My mother being one of seven children and my father was one of six living siblings

We visited New Jersey at least once each year

So many aunts and uncles and cousins,

Great aunts and uncles… my parents cousins…

People

Many people

I was the quiet one

Close to mom as a young child

Or hanging with my sister as I got older

Loud family

Difficulty to get a word in edgewise with all the animated extroverts

Fun family

Memories

Creating memories for my own children

Establishing bonds

Building a sense of comfort with being around this family that lives 756 miles away

Three days to visit

Three short days for him to have time to get to know these strange people

People who are “strange to him”, unknown

I feel proud of how well he is doing

He has come such a long way on his journey, overcoming social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder

It is an ongoing journey

He came out of the bedroom on his own in the middle of the gathering

“I thought I would come out to be with everyone” he told me

He made that decision on his own

Talking with him and

Encouraging him to be a part of the gathering and talk to people, to at least say hello

He has made such huge progress over the past several years

Family

Oldest son at home

Texting and FaceTime connections

Give a little bit

Give a little bit of your love to me

I’ll give a little bit of my life for you

Now’s the time that we need to share

So find yourself, we’re on our way back home

Family

Two more days to be the parent he needs in this new environment

Meeting his needs

And meeting mine

Balance

Being there for all three of my children,

And my husband

And myself

Easter

April 1

Fresh starts

Foolish fun and games amount family

Easter, April 1, 2018

You’re on the road

But you’ve got no destination

You’re in the mud

In the maze of her imagination

You’re lovin’ this town

Even if that doesn’t ring true

You’ve been all over

And it’s been all over you

It’s a beautiful day

Don’t let it get away

It’s a beautiful day

Thank you to: U2, Beautiful Day lyrics

Supertramp and “Give a Little Bit

Five for Fighting and “Superman””

I am grateful for Google and Azlyrics

And grateful for all the poets of this world

Your words inspire me

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Mommy Guilt: “shoulding” on myself

I should have…

I should have worked more hours when i was pregnant with baby number 3.

I should have returned to work sooner after he was born in January 2009.

I should have worked more and saved more while I was pregnant.

I should have returned to work sooner so our debt didn’t grow so much.

I should have known to move money from our tax rebate to pay down our home equity line of credit after my husband had a massive heart attack so that Medicaid would have kicked in sooner, rather than exhausting all that money we had from me working extra hours and our tax rebate.

The social worker should have told me the rules…

Someone should have told me that Medicaid says if you have more than $3000 in assesses (savings, checking, cash), then you wont; qualify for Medicaid…until that money is gone…

I should have applied for food stamps once we did qualify for Medicaid

I began the application several times, I should have finished it and sent it in.

I should have gotten more help then we would have less debt.

I should have done so many things….

I should have reached out for help sooner when my daughter showed signs of separation anxiety and other issues when I was pregnant with our third child.

I should have realized it was something more than just me being pregnant.

I should have gotten her help sooner so that her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, her anxiety disorder, her mental illness did not become so extreme and severe…

I should have gotten her on medication sooner…

I should have listened to my friend who suggested it might be OCD when it was in a mild state.

I should have gotten her to a therapist sooner.

I should have researched OCD sooner, when my friend brought it up.

I should have listened..

I should have gotten her help sooner so she did not have to suffer so much..

I should have gotten my youngest help sooner when he showed signs of anxiety and OCD from at least age 2.

I should have countered when the therapist said, “i don’t think it is OCD”

I should have completed the paperwork even though it took 6 months to get it from the Development and Behavioral Pediatrician

I should have gotten him in sooner and not waited as long as I did.

I should have taken him to a mental health place sooner to get him help, medication.

I should not have had so much fear about giving my kids medication…I should have found more support when I knew that was needed.

Going to the psychiatrist should have been paid for by Medicaid.

Medicaid should have qualified people to treat my children and I should have access to finding the resources without having to jump through a million hoops and experience unqualified people and ill equipped facilities and services.

My children should be able to go to the specialists they need because of their illness even though they have government assisted health insurance.

I work in health care, I should have better health insurance.

I have a bachelors of science degree in Occupational Therapy and training in mental health care, I should be treated with respect when the people from Medicaid speak to me.

Everyone should be treated with respect no matter what their educational level.

I should be able to access information about my health insurance and services for my children even though it is government assisted.

I have paid into the system since I was 15 1/2 years old and so now that I need these services, I should receive them if I qualify.

I shouldn’t have to jump through crazy hoops because my income varies from month to month and so does my 20 year old son’s income.

My 20 year old son’s income SHOULD NOT count toward our household income for the healthcare market place and definitely not for qualifying my younger children for Medicaid or NC health choice. My 20 year old son who purchased his own car, pays for his own insurance, and pays to attend community college part time all with his own hard earned money.

I should have listened to my gut when I realized even though their Dad had survived, that my three kids had gone through a traumatic experience and would need some counseling and help…

Survivors guilt…but he lived, there is no help when your husband lives…

I should have listened to myself because I knew that experience was traumatic for all of us.

I should have let go of “survivors guilt” because he lived and our friends who lost husbands to heart attacks that same year, did not survive. “I should be grateful that he lived.”

I should on myself and others have should upon me….

And I should on other people.

It is really a bad habit and not helpful to anyone.

I should have filled out the special forms and jumped through the hoops to see if my son could qualify for grants for college costs, because they decided to use the same year for 3or 4 semesters to look at our income, the year we took out $65,000 from IRA money to pay down debt.

I should have worked more hours.

I should have been a better mom so my children wouldn’t have mental illness.

I should have been a better me so I wouldn’t have mental illness.

I should have done something different to prevent mental illness?

Is that really possible?

Do parents of kids who have cancer ask themselves this question?

Maybe they do, Maybe they don’t.

I shouldn’t have to wonder about this.

My kids friends and their parents should have been there more for my daughter when she was crippled with mental illness, with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression.

They should have given her the love and support she needed just like they would have done if she had cancer.

WE SHOULD LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE MENTAL ILLNESS IS TREATED THE SAME AS OTHER ILLNESSES, PHYSICAL ILLNESSES WHICH ARE MORE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.

Mental illness SHOULD be classified the same as other illness because they last time I looked, my head and brain are attached to my body.

We need to stop shoulding on ourselves and on others

We need to embrace where we are now and make the best choices we can in the moment and realize we can not go back in time (not yet) and change the past. What is done is behind us and we must keep moving forward.

We need to stop judging other people and their choices and instead come from love to reach out to and help others with respect and kindness.

I give you this challenge today…

Pay attention to how often you SHOULD on yourself or on someone else.

We are often our worst critic and as moms, as parents, we are our own worse saboteur.

Love yourself and respect yourself first.

Only then can you love and respect others.

Depression: Trudging through the mud with chains on my back while trying to keep my head above water

Here comes the sun

It’s been a long, cold winter

When I look back to when I have been depressed, I see sadnesses but there is so much more to it then that.

Life becomes a chore, all of it. Getting through each and every day is exhausting

And I look forward most to going to bed at night and sleeping and being in the quiet

But when I wake, I don’t feel refreshed, I feel tired and want to keep sleeping

Getting up is challenging

Getting up and starting my day takes a lot of effort

Leaving me with a half empty tank for the rest of my day

And some days, getting up takes nearly all my tank and so I am left running on fumes all day

Until I can go to bed again.

I manage to do the essentials, feed my children, feed myself

When I am depressed, I eat, too much

Trying to find comfort in food, but the comfort never comes

Leaving me feeling heavy and disappointed further pushing me down

I manage to wash clothes, I like doing laundry, the only cleaning task I truly like

Something about the simplicity of laundry and the reward

Sort the colors, fill the washer, add the soap and turn the dials

I get myself and my kids to the things we must do, are committed to

I get myself to work and get through the day

I don’t enjoy work very much and it feels like WORK

There are moments of pleasure and times where I feel good at work, work gives me a. Feeling of accomplishment

When I am working, I feel competent, because I have been an Occupational Therapist for 25 years

And I know the routine

I complete an eval, setting goals and then reassess them 3-4 weeks later and see the progress, or lack of it

And when they have reached their maximum potential, I complete the discharge paperwork with reassessment again.

It is logical and familiar.

I am a good therapist and I know what I am doing.

Yet, i have many moment so “I don’t want to do this anymore” seeing all the flaws in the system

And the problems that need fixing and it frustrates me beyond belief

Yet while I am at work, I probably am functioning my best

Home

Thinking about it now, recalling how coming home is always challenging when I am depressed,

I think it is because I come home to “disappointment”

Disappointment in myself for all the things I have NOT been doing in my time away from work

You can look at the menu but you just can’t eat

You can feel the cushions but you can’t have a seat

You can dip your foot in the pool, but you can’t have a swim

You’re the fastest runner, but you’re not allowed to win

YOu can see the summit, but you can’t reach it

It’s the last piece of the puzzle but you just cant make it fit

The doctor says you’re cured but you still feel the pain

Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain

There are moments of joy, playing with my youngest and engaging with all my kids

Yet there is this dark cloud over my head the whole time

Just when I think I am pulling myself up and out of the muck and mud,

Something happens creating more challenges in my life

Causing me to fall back into the mud

Don is my rock, steady and always by my side

Yet, when I am depressed all I see are his flaws

I expect him to disappoint me and that is what I experience

This is a new reflection, a new realizing that I am just now fully realizing

As I listen to Peter Cetera sing, The Glory of Love

DEPRESSION

Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?

I always thought if you were clinically depressed, you wound have any moment of joy

I always told myself, i wasn’t really depressed or i won’t be able to go to work

I wouldn’t be able to function at all, that is real clinical depression

Those people have it bad

I am still functioning.

It wasn’t until I came out of it, that I could look back and see how depressed I was

It didn’t matter that I was still functioning, I was barely functioning

I was barely getting by and it was painful

Often physically painful with aches and pains, throwing my back out to the point of not being able to move

Many trips to the chiropractor and other doctors for a variety of illnesses

And then I would get sick, stay home from work sick and it would take a long time to get better or I would relapse

Looking back this happened in college, often, sinus infections that just wouldn’t go away

Mood swings

All my life I have experienced big mood swings

When I went to college and learned about bipolar disorder

I wondered, Is this me?

Yet, i don’t experience mania

Not full on mania

It was years before I learned about hypomania

I think I learned about it from my brother and his bipolar diagnosis

From that time, i began to wonder about myself

I went to a psychiatrist after I had been on an antidepressant for a long time, 8 months ore so, prescribed by my primary

Because i finally took myself to the doctor and tole them I needed treatment for depression

So by the time I went to the first psychiatrist, i was having nearly all the side effects from the antidepressant and i was in a state of hypomania but beginning to look more like mania

The doctor diagnosed me with depression, removed me from the medicine showing me how I was having all the side effects fro it

And then

She declared me cured

I knew I was not cured but hopefully that I didn’t need the antidepressant anymore

And so worried that I would fall back into the depression again

I was good for a while, for another few months

Until i slowly began sinking again

So slowly, rreeping up on me

Realizing it but naively thinking along the way that

THIS was the low point and surely I would pull back up

Sinking further and further

Finding a doctor again and trying a different antidepressant and going to a new psychiatrist

Because I wanted to make sure the medicine didn’t cause mania because

That can help end with bipolar disorder

I had been reading and researching becoming more and more convinced that this was my proper diagnosis

And going to the psychiatrist, to the expert, to determine if that was the case

Yet, she diagnosed me with depression

And I got tiered of paying twenty dollars cash each visit and not happy with her

Challenged by th noisy fan because the building’s air conditioner was broken and she had a soft voice and an accent

And my hearing is not what it used to be and it was a challenge to hear her words

And a challenge to be there with her asking dumb basic questions

When I had dug so much deeper with all my purists in EFT and alternative modalities and inner work

Luckily, my primary has continued to prescribe my medication and i don’t seam to baving side effects

I wonder about mania vs hypomania

I realize that it would have been good to continue to go to the same psychiatrist so manybe she could have seen the difference in me,

Why?

To diagnosis me properly

Whatever

I have done that for myself

I am more qualified to do it

Which is sad, really sad that the mental health system has failed me

I intended to work in mental health when I was in college studying Occupational therapy

We had an entire semester plus dedicated to mental health and level I and level II fieldwork in a mental health setting

Only finding traumatic brain injury and a acute rehab pulled me way from my interest in pursing a career in mental health

Here I am

All these years later

Discovering that the doctors don’t always do the best job at diagnosis in

The psychologists and psychiatrist with their MDs and PhDs, all those years of school

Didn’t help me

My own personal education, experience, research and inner work and trial and erro with a variety of approaches

Has led me to diagnosis myself

I would have been the last person to say this is valid,

I am biased, this is why i went to the professions in the first place

They were supposed to be the experts

They first failed me with my children, especially my youngest son

In getting him help for his anxiety and challenges that affected his every day life

Yet, I find myself needing to say, I mean no disrespect for these professionals and they are essential in the system

And I KNOW they help many, many children and adults get the help they need.

And yet, there are those who are misdiagnosed and those who fall through the cracks of the system

Those who don’t get the help they need because of costs and insurance, bad insurance or no insurance

Or no qualified providers in their insurance plan

WE MUST ALL TAKE CHARGE OF OUR OWN HEALTH AND BE INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS

As an Occupational Therapist, my role is to facilitate my patient’s return to a higher level of independent functioning.

I facilitate, but I can not do the work for them and if they are not motivated and don’t make the effort, there is nothing I can do to make them better.

“Man, through the use of his hands, can influence the state of his own health”

The quote is from one of the founders of occupational therapy and something I learned in freshman year in a Theory of Occupational Therapy class. I learned about many different theorists yet that one quote is what has stuck with me.

That quote is what motivated me to help my daughter learn to knit and crochet when her OCD was so severe that it crippled here in her daily life. And what drove me to engage her in Sudoku puzzles and other tasks to help calm the anxiety that was rampant in her Brian causing havoc in her life and in ours.

I have learned that I must go to the doctor and get their advice AND do my own research, go to the alternative practitioners and gather all the resources and information and advice

AND then I must decide what to take in and what to discard in order to maximize my level of independent functioning.

BUT WHEN I AM DEPRESSED, IT IS REALLY HARD TO DO THIS!

I KNOW What I need to do much of the time, but making the decisions to do it and taking the action is challenging.

It can be paralyzing to know what I need to do and not be able to make the decisions to do it.

To an outsider it looks so simple, just do it,, just call the doctor and make the appointment, just get up 30 minutes early and walk every morning, just go. Outside once each day and do grounding exercises, just write in your journal daily.

Sure I KNOW I need to do these things and at times, I can do them, once or twice,

Trudging through the mud with chains on my back, while trying to keep my head above water

Don’t Look Back, Keep Moving Forward Post4:The other side

I have skipped several weeks writing.  Yet, in that time, I have moved so far foward!

(My last post)

I hardly know where to begin right now.  I parked myself in my bedroom to write about 4pm.  Cold, rainy with chance of wintery mix on this Monday and so I choose to cozy up at home to write.  Took me over an hour to pack up and head to my room- and almost 3 1/2 hours to finally open Word Press.  

I went to my Charlotte Homeschooling Website, which I usualy do first. Wanted to update my profile picture. Then was looking for a new picture for my Child-led Learning page. I just realized, I never found that particular picture I was looking for…

Instead, I spent my time going through my Facebook Album of Uploaded Photos and saving pictures on my computer in a file entitled “Child-Led Learning”.  Each picture I found and shared found me saying,”this would be great for a blog post” and even thinking of things I could write about with each picture.

Procrastination

I procrastinate well.  But I pushed myself with the help of my wonderful husband bringing me dinner and reminding me to write! I then switched my music from Pandora to my old phone playlist entitled, “Writing” which I used years ago for writing inspiration on my Monday nights out.

I wasn’t sure what to write about.  I  really wanted to write a Child-led learning blog because I have not done that in awhile and recently have been filled with inspiration and multiple ideas.  I knew I needed to just jump in and figure it out as I wrote. This too is part of my journey out of depression.  I have found myself on a wonderful “upswing” for well over a month now.  I felt this last back in summer- fall of 2014 before I crashed down in late 2014-early 2015.  I am going to go to a Psychiatrist soon.  First time for me.

I have been taking an anti-depresant (SSRI) for about 10 monts, presribed by my primary doctor (family nurse practioner).   I have a close realative who has Bipolar II and have wondered for a long time if I don’t fit criteria for Bipolar Disorder.  I also know that taking an anti-depressant may not be the best medication choice for me if infact my depression is caused by Bipolar Disorder.  My depression became so signifcant for me, I knew I needed help.  I knew I needed more help than all the things I was already doing.  I had thought about medication for years, at least since my daughter began taking an SSRI in 2013.  That was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make, to make the appointment with the Psychiatrist and to realize my daughter needed more help than we could give her and depsite all our efforts with diet changes and a variety of alternative therapies since we  first recognized her  sudden onset of moderate to severe OCD in Spring of  2010.

It took me until early 2014 after a dear friend had a heart to heart talk with me about my depression.   I made the phone call shortly after our meeting and scheduled an apt for myself with my primary and even made sure my husband could attend with me becuase I wanted someone to help me follow through with my request for medication.  I had to wait a few months for the appointment and scheduled it as a well check up, something I was do for anyhow.  I went to her because I liked that the fact that she respected alternative medicine and modalities and saw value of both convential medicine and alternative.  She brought up two things that hadn’t occured to me, bio-identical hormones, I was 45 at the time; and trying supplaments first.  Why had I not tried some supplaments first?  Maybe becaue I was too lost in my depression and drained from carying for my daughter’s mental illness to take that initiative.  The bio-identical hormones information made a lot of sense to me, yet I knew this was more than my hormones because I could look back on my life and see this issue for a long time.  I also could not allocate money for a modality not covered by insurance at the time.

I left with a plan to try supplaments first, ones she recommended.  Yet, I also was kicking myself for not sticking to my plan and not informing my husband ahead of time that the reason he was with me was to be sure I asked for the medication.  It took me a few weeks to order the supplaments, then I took them for maybe 2 months.  Then I contacted her, through their wonderful online patient portal system.  She had told me when I had gone to see her that she would write a prescription for me.

It was easy!  I desribed things to her via email and she called in the prescription. She started me on a low dose (5mg for week then 10 mg). I was happy to start slow.  After 4-6 weeks,  I felt like it might be helping.  A few months later (I think), she incresed it to 20 mg after discussion with her and another appointment.  Again, after about 6 weeks, I thought I saw improvement on the new dose.  Yet, I wasn’t certain.  I was busy engaging in self development work at the same time which I know has had a huge impact on me.

I remember this past fall, wishing I was in the place I had been back in  the fall of 2014.  I knew I wasn’t there and still struggling with depression.  Yet, I was able to pus on, moving more foward then I had been able to do months before.  There definitely was a big switch in January.

For months, probably a good year, I was stuck.  I didn’t know what to write about.  I didn’t have much desire to write.  I began working more on my website first, and making some needed improvments.  Yet, the inspiration for writing came more slowly.  Earlier this month, February 2016, I messaged an online private writing group that I have been a part of.  They are a group of woman writers who set individual  weekly or monthly writing goals and help hold each other accountable.  I last participated in Octover of 2014.  I think t hat was the only month I participated. I contact them, ready to participate again! 16 months later.  Everyone was too busy, but made plans to do a writing challenge after Valentine’s Day, which I am realizing is today.  Guess I need to go to the group and check!

Before I become like a squirrel and venture off on another tangent, something that has been happening to me more often lately, scampering wildly from one idea to another, I will conclude with a few thoughts.

This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It played earlier as I was writing.  It’s been a while since I listened to it and felt the inspiration I used to feel when I would hear it play as I wrote.   It has such meaning and always had for me.  I share it in entirety.

David Wilcox:  Turning Point (from the album of the same name)

Just one turn to steer your fate

Or wait for fate to spin you

Your trusting’s fine but much too blind

Your compass is within you

These days pass you yearning

Like empty pages turning

You’re holding out for somjething real, oh yeah

You can’t play pretender

Because you still remember

Just how full your heart can feel

But how long the distance

Getting by and getting through

Your heart’s strong insistnece

Says that nothing else will do

But you could try on their distractions

And wear some empty compromise

But it’s hard to breath inside

Some cheap disguise

You can live your life completelty

That true path, you’re here to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time

But just one thing can kill this dream

To compromise your vision

We find our truth or live some lie

It rides on this decision

Meanwhile those othere voices

Hurry up and rush your choices

Try to second guess your fate, oh yeah

You can’t wait forever

Goota pull yourself together

Feel the time is running late

Well, this time right now

The turning point is here

So look deep, see clear

Soon your chance will disappear

Or you could drift into distration

Wear that empty compromise

But it’s hard to breathe inside

That cheap disguise

You can live your life completely

That true path, you’re here to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time

Here’s the turning point in time

Here’s the turning point in time

Read all posts in this series here. “Don’t Look Back, Keep Moving Forward”

 

 

Quicksand

Today in my son’s science club class, a monthly class held at our local homeschool co-op, we did kitchen science activities.  One activity included mixing corn starch  with water at a ratio of about 10 to 1.  As the corn starch is mixed with the water, it becomes more and more difficult to mix it.  When you put your fingers into the final product, it feels solid, yet as you pull your fingers out, two things happen, the solid become more liquid and it also feels like it is sucking you in, like quick sand.

I have  been sitting here for over 2 hours, searching the web in an effort to find a topic to write about.  I then came to the conclusion that I needed to write about being “stuck”.  Because for the past month or so, I have felt stuck. Stuck with life and my efforts to write.  I have started over 4 blog posts in the past month that have been left unfinished.  I have also found myself dreading my weekly writing time.  That has been a tough thought for me to swallow.  As a busy mom of three kids who also works outside the home on average 20 hours per week including weekends, writing has always been my outlet and escape.

So here I am with time alone to myself in a favorite coffee shop. My husband is taking care of the kids.  I haven’t even had an interrupting phone calls or texts about issues at home.  Yet, I am left feeling blank.  And so as I wrote out the word stuck in the tile, I then came to the body of the post and the first thing that came to mind was quicksand.

That feeling of being pulled in and every effort to pull myself up and out, leaves me more exhausted and more swallowed in my lost feelings.  I feel this in particular as it relates to my youngest child.  He has shown signs of anxiety for nearly his entire life.  Yet, these signs have become more pronounced over the past six months.  A year ago, he was begging me to participate in classes like his older siblings have done.  I remember picking my daughter up from her bimonthly girl scout meeting during which time she would want to talk the entire ride home about her experiences in girl scouts that day.  My younger son would become mad with her talking and demand that he talk too.  Later it became apparent to me that he too wanted to participate in activities like his sister.  I found the information for our local nature center which provides preschool age nature classes centered around a story and nature walk.  We attended several of these classes. I remember the first day of class. My son, who was 4 at the time, was disappointed that the class did not involve writing things in a notebook.  Ironic coming from a child growing up in an unschooling family.

I think the vast age difference between him and his siblings, his sister is 7 years older than him and his brother is 11 years older, has added to his sense of being left out.  OVer the summer, I learned that our homeschool group was starting a monthly co-op.  I was excited and he too was eager to participate in the classes.  We encountered one challenge of him not being old enough for the chess club, something he desperately wanted to participate in.  I contacted the parents who were running the class and had an online discussion with them.  I learned that there 14-year-old son was the one leading the class and because he had never done anything like this before, they felt that 5 was just too young for the class.  I understood and yet also was aggravated by the age limit.  My reasons for homeschooling when my oldest was 5 had very much to do with age related learning.  My oldest learned to read and write before being of kindergarten age and thus school would not have been a good academic fit for him.  Here I was 12 years later dealing with this issues with my youngest in the homeschool community.

Four months have past and we have attended the monthly co-op with my youngest participating in 1oam science club and 11 am art class.  There were more kids in science than art but yet he had more issues with art class and would not even go in the room today.  He participated in the activity the first three weeks.  So much for the idea of him becoming more comfortable with being around other people.  His social anxiety seems to have grown worse over these past 4 months rather than diminish as I had hoped.  We have known some of the individuals in the co-op for a long time.  Both parents in his classes were extremely respectful of his desire to be off by himself and did not push him in any area.  They were very accommodating to us both as I attended the classes with him and was the one to participate in the past two months science activities.  Again, as I look back, I see his participation lessened in science class as well as art over the 4 weeks.

What is a parent to do?

I grappled with this issue for some time and with the help of a close friend who also has children with anxiety issues, finally made the phone calls necessary to schedule my son for a psychological assessment.  I also took him to a well visit which I had not done for some time due to his anxiety around new people.  He refused the hearing test after tolerating the headphones on his head for less than a minute, refusing to raise his hand when he heard a beep and then pulled the headphones off.  HE then refused to take his clothes off to wear the gown for his check up.  I knew the nurse practitioner at the clinic from taking my two older children and was really impressed with how well she handled his anxiety and refusal.  I was not impressed with how I handled the experience.  I am usually my son’s biggest champion for respecting his space and need to do things at his own pace but sitting there in the doctor’s office, I wanted him to comply and follow the rules.  Maybe this is more a testament to my own issues with authority and rule following and may have very little to do with my son.  I know I have fears of looking like a “bad parent” because of my children’s behavior.

The more I pushed my son to comply with the required taking off of his clothes in order to be examined by the doctor, the more he dug in his heels and resisted.  Like stepping in quick sand, I found myself becoming more stuck, not knowing what to do and then realizing I had pushed too far became angry. I sank further into the quicksand.  The nurse practitioner managed to listen to his heart and lungs and look in his ears and eyes and even his throat.  Thank goodness she remained very calm.  And we talked at the end of my upcoming appointment for a psychology assessment that would not be until February because that was the first available appointment.  I can still see the look on her face when I said “February”.  A few days later, I got a call stating there was an opening at the clinic later this month. unfortunately on a day and time that would not work for me.  There are two appointment times at the clinic, 8:45 am and 1pm.  In order for us to successfully arrive at the clinic, I knew we needed an afternoon appointment.  My son needs warm up time in the morning.  The assessment is a 3-4 hour process and I want us to at least have the chance to take our time in the morning and not be in a rush to get out of the house.  I need that so I can remain calm.  Taking him to  the psychologist feels less threatening to me than to the well visit appointment.  Maybe because I know that the psychologists are educated and trained in working with children with psychological issues.  And I trust that they can be objective and calm in the face of my son’s defiance and resistance.  Yet, I also know without the presence of other children or a noisy environment, some of his issues will not be apparent.

While I wait for his appointment, 2 months away, I find myself sinking further in the quicksand of worry and self-doubt.  No matter how many times that I read that parents do not cause their children’s mental illness, there is a perpetual thought that lingers in my mind that somehow this is my fault.  I do have the luxury of blaming my son’s anxiety on early child-hood trauma including his sister’s sudden behavior outbursts and personality change when she was 8 and he was merely 1-year-old.  The onset of her severe OCD and the resulting years of struggles within our family and between my daughter and us, her parents as well navigated the process of finding help for her.  On top of that, at age 2, my son witnessed his father going into cardiac arrest in our living room and the subsequent trauma of me being gone for 10- 15 hours each day over the next 12 days while he was in the hospital.  And to top things of, the following year, when he was 3, I was in a car accident and he and his father came to meet me in the emergency room.  I went home that same day, but suffered much physical and psychological pain for many months with lingering post traumatic driving anxiety.

Maybe I need to step back in this time and assume a role of observer rather than trying to change his behavior.  I know that some regular routines have helped him with bedtime rituals as well as morning wake ups.  We have  also found removing some foods to have helped some extreme behavior for the most part.  And taking an amino acid supplement along with magnesium, thing his sister has been taking for years, also seem to help make our days manageable.  I am very attached to my son, this child whom I waited to bring into the world until my husband had full-time salaried employment allowing me to be at home full-time for the first time in my 10 years of parenting. Yet, my husband’s loss of this steady job when I was 3 months pregnant, sent me back to work.  I resisted returning to work after he was born for a year because I wanted that experience of being home with my child full-time, something that I had only for weeks with my older two.  He is also very attached to me and me alone which has presented  many challenges with his father watching him as I have gone to work over the past 4 1/2 years.

Somehow, I need to take a deep breath and step back.  I need to accept my son and the struggles he currently has.  I also need to acknowledge that his issues do not have to define him.  I resisted for many months, almost a year with labelling my daughter’s issues.  This time, I know that a label can help us to know the path to receiving help and helping him to understand what he is going through.  This is particularly true when  child sufferers with OCD.  It is important to help the child to see the OCD as separate from himself.  Personifying the OCD helps a child to see it for what it is and can help him to overcome the challenges that OCD creates.  You would think my experience of having traveled the journey with my daughter, would help me to deal more effectively with my son’s issues.  I know there things that I can handle much better this time around and yet, maybe my awareness also creates more dread of what lies ahead.  But I must stop myself from projecting into the future and catastrophizing his current issues.

Choosing my life… the life I am living

I can’t believe my last post was January 5…so much time has passed since then, nearly 2 months.

Life happens

I’ve been slowly getting over reoccurring Bronchitis since November.

My youngest child turned 3 and we enrolled him at Romp N Roll again, for a gymnastics class with mom.

My daughter turned 10, fell in love with a rescue dog who lived a short time, and recently began ERP therapy.

I have been exercising 2 or 3 times a week with my oldest son and helping him with pre- Algebra, at his request.

Time spent with my children is always time well spent.  They come first in my life. Sure, I need to meet my basic needs, put my oxygen masc on first, yet, I enjoy life most when the larger chunks of my time are spent with them.  I chose to have children and to be there with them as they grow and figure out living in this world.    I sometimes forget this, but when I look at how I am spending my time, I always desire to have more time with my children.  The reason that I do not want to work away from the home is to be with them.  Sure I have writing dreams that I want to pursue and I make time for this as life allows, but my real frustration is being there consistently for my children because I have needed to work outside the home.

I have three children, spread 11 years apart.  The biggest reason for the age spread is because after I had my first son and had to return to work full time when he was 12 weeks old, I wanted to wait until I could be working less from home before I had another child.  The third one came about only after my husband sold his business and went to work for the person he sold it to- full time job.  It was the first time I felt like I didn’t “have” to work.  It was a great feeling.

Unfortunately, it took time to conceive and then my husband lost his full time job when I was 3 months pregnant.  I worked during my pregnancy but then held out going back for an entire year, even though, financially, we really needed me to go back much sooner.  We have lived off savings, and now have some debt beyond our mortgage that we are not happy about and never had before and are even dipping into our IRA funds now.  But you know what, when I think about how I worked hard for the money in my IRA accounts (401K rollovers), I feel blessed to have that money there to use now when we really need it and so that I do not have to find full time work.   I can always work more when my children are older.  But right now they are 14, 10 and 3 and we homeschool/ unschool and they need me and I need them.

They need my support, my time, my love, compassion and assistance in various ways. Of course the 3 year old, just wants mom around.  He played happily by himself for about 3 hours at my sister’s house this past weekend  because I was resting on the bed in the same room.  He did not “need me” until I got up and went down the hall to the bathroom, “Mom, where are you?”  He went searching for me, not realizing where I had went as he was absorbed in his play.  My husband and I were surprised at how long he was content in the room with me sleeping on and off but not really talking to him.  Of course, when I thought about it, I wasn’t really that surprised.  Toddlers need to know mom is near by even if they can play on their own and not need mom to interact with them.  Attachment parenting in action.  He also needs mom to listen to him and pay attention to his endless conversations and imaginary play. And to answer his questions about everything in his world and all those things that fascinate him.  He needs me to engage with him, to get his needs met including his needs for physical activity and mental stimulation.  He needs me to pay attention to his behavior and how it varies with  foods and when needs are not met.   He needs me to play with him, to read to him, to take him new places and engage in life with him.  Exploring the world with a toddler is so fun and exciting and brings out the child in me and it is also mentally and physically exhausting!  I feel my age, being 42 now as opposed to 31 when my oldest was 3.

My daughter needs me because she is 10 and generally an extrovert and because she has been dealing with an anxiety disorder for the past 2 years.  She is limited with making food for herself and needs help to put on her shoes because of the anxiety.  She is by nature a very compassionate, kindhearted and generous child.  Yet, when her anxiety overwhelms her, her behavior looks very different, nearly the opposite of her personality.  She has needed our help in understanding and dealing with her issues, supporting her, as we figured out by trial and error, what to do and not to do.  She has needed us, her parents,  as advocates, researchers and encouragement to deal with her anxiety and be able to live her life.   She also needs me to help her find the resources and materials to pursue her interests and to keep her mind busy and engaged.  She is a very intelligent child and her anxiety is noticeably less when she is engaged in pursuits she enjoys and most especially with her passions.   And she needed us to say “Yes” when our neighbors who moved suddenly asked us if we wanted to take their dog who had become my daughter’s  best friend” -her words.  I am a cat person, and her dad is someone who enjoys pets, when they live outside or at least that was how he was raised.  She needs us to help her find and participate in dog related activities because this is her passion.  Loving animals and dogs is who she is.

My oldest child, my 14 year old son, needs me because for at least 2 years, if not 3, he has not gotten as much attention as he needs and especially now as he experiences puberty and all the changes that are happening within his body.  He likes structure and plans despite our unschooling life.  He has many interests and pursues them independently.  I don’t think that he has ever uttered the words “I am bored”, or at least rarely.  Yet, he needs help organizing his time and getting things done that he wants to do.  He has been very interested in pursuing computer science for some time and knows he needs math and so we are now using a curriculum for the first time (in our own way) because of his desire to advance with higher level math.  He needs 1:1 time with me, as all my other children do, and even more so now than he did a few years ago.  He needs to be able to vent and talk freely with one of his parents and share his life and experiences with mom and dad.  He needs us to help him with getting together with his friends and to transport him to all his social gatherings and and all his other activities.   He is an introvert, yet, an outgoing introvert, and a calm, quiet- natured person,  yet, he has had a growing need to get together with his friends.  Sometimes, I think and he admits, he needs to just get out of the house and away from his high energy- physically active younger siblings.

They all need me and in different ways.  I enjoy having children of different ages and I know that I appreciate my toddler much more because my older two children are long past the toddler years.  Sure, it has its challenges having 3 children all in different stages of life.  We join up for the summer reading program at the library and join all three age-group programs, one with each child.   My son is in a middle and high school only co-op where nearly everything is only for him.  It took many years before my oldest two could participate in an activity together due to the 4- year age spread.  Now, my 3 year old, who tells us he wants to “stay wittle” and  “not get big”, strives to do all the things his older siblings do.  He gets things out of the refrigerator himself and wants to make his own sandwich and help mom in the kitchen.

I understand why years ago, people told me to have my children close together in age.

But, I wouldn’t change anything.  I always wanted 4 children or at least 4.  If I had had another, I would have liked to have one between my 10 year old and 3 year old.  Yet, this is the life I have and the children who are in my life and my care.  I need to make the most of it and appreciate them for who they are and their special gifts and spend my time seeing the beauty in their souls and empower and affirm them as they are.

If you read what I write and think that I live a blissful life enjoying every moment of my children’s lives…..

….Don’t kid yourself!

I am living a human life with all my human traits, my own past experiences, fears and doubts.  I  strive to be the best parent that I can be.  Far more often than I like, I fail to follow my own basic principles and beliefs as a parent.  I believe that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience but  I need to write about this in order to remember it and to truly live it!

Life with a dog… 11 months and counting

Our dog, Olive, came to live with us in late October of 2010.  She was our neighbor’s dog.  We met her as a cute little puppy and got to know her as we assisted our neighbors with dog sitting on occasion.   My daughter, the animal lover who has wanted a dog of her own, enjoyed helping take care of the dogs across the street.  She then had opportunities to take Olive for walks and got to bring her to our yard for visits.  My neighbor described that when Olive would hear Abby’s voice outside their house, she would get all excited and come running to the door.  Olive became my daughter’s best friend.

Then in early  2010, my daughter’s irrational fears, nighttime difficulties  and over hand washing grew into full-blown dysfunctional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  It was a crazy time for the entire family.  Through the most difficult times, she begged for a dog, saying that a dog would “make it better”.  We realized that a dog would not really make it better but as we learned to cope and help her navigate this disruptive anxiety disorder, we considered the idea of a dog.  We did witness how our neighbor’s dog, coming over and at times into Abby’s room could take her from a state of rage to a more calm and rational place.

Then in October, we learned our neighbor’s were moving due to a job change.  They were looking for rental property and could not find any that would allow all 3 of their dogs.  They came to my husband and I quietly and asked if we wanted Olive.  We did not have much time to make a decision.  We choose to take her temporarily and they agreed and had others who could take her if it did not work out for us.   We told our children it was only temporary to give us time to figure out if this was going to work for us.

I have had cats since I have lived on my own and am clearly a “cat person”.  My husband grew up with dogs but dogs who lived outside.  We would have been happy to continue through life without a dog.  Cats are self maintaining.  They bathe themselves and use a liter box. They can even be left home alone for a few days with plenty of water, food and clean liter boxes.   We have always been able to find someone to check in on our cats when we have been away.

So just prior to Halloween, 2010, Olive came to live with us and a few days later we watched our neighbors drive off in their moving truck- off to live several states away.  Olive was on her best behavior when we first got her.  I vividly recall that first night as we ate dinner, she sat quietly at a distance from the table.   We had to fix our fence to be able to let her run in the back yard and I can recall standing outside with her on a leash in the dark before bed.   Sometimes, I was happy to be standing outside in the quiet of my yard at night.

Somehow, after Olive came into our home, her place with my daughter changed.   The first few nights, Olive slept in my daughter’s bedroom but then something changed.  I am not sure what, other than Abby’s OCD- the part of her brain that is not functioning as it should and giving her false messages of danger. Olive was no longer an escape from her anxieties and fears but now part of our family and part of her issues.   Because we took Olive in on such short notice, we had no expectations for our daughter as to her role in caring for Olive.  We hoped she would take to caring for Olive and it would become her activity, something she enjoyed.  Yet, as time passed, we saw that Abby’s irrational fears and anxieties and inability to touch things now included Olive, feeding Olive, taking her outside, and even petting Olive.

We made our first trip with Olive over Thanksgiving and even my non-dog mother declared her a great  dog and she was welcome at her home.  Olive is a great dog with a wonderful temperament.  She is an ideal dog for a family with a toddler.  She gets along great with our cat who I think despite her air of superiority, is happy to have an animal companion.  She gives that away when she hides from and then jumps out at Olive, running from her, knowing despite being much smaller, she the cat with claws, has the upper hand.

At times, I do grumble about having a dog because I feel that we have the dog for my daughter and yet she can not usually do the simple things like feed her and take her outside.  Things are much better than those first few months~for Abby and with Olive.  Abby has participated in Canine Good Citizen Class with Olive and my sister has been coming about once per month and spending time with Abby and Olive with dog training.  Olive is more comfortable and now begs at the table and follows us when we have food.  She also is attention seeking at times and has wiggled her way between Jason, the toddler, and another person to get affection.  She likes to sit in our lap even though she is about 37 pounds.

Olive has become our family dog.  Jason calls her “my dog” and enjoys giving her treats- often many treats- but this makes for a good relationship with the two of them.  She barks a lot when she is outside.  She didn’t bark at all the first week or so that we had her.  She rarely barks in the house.  She is a great dog.  Yet, I do ask the question, “Why is there a dog in my house?” at times because I am still a cat person.

We are going to take our first trip where Olive can not come and so we needed to find someone to watch Olive.  Before Olive came to live with us, and we contemplated getting a dog for our daughter, we figured our wonderful neighbors across the street could dog sit for us.  The ones who gave us Olive and moved several states away.

I found a homeschool family with a young daughter who loves animals so much she started her own pet sitting business.   We had met them  several months ago and so they came over to meet Olive and will be coming over to take care of her when we are gone.   It feels good to hire another young girl who loves animals like my daughter with a mom that I know and trust.  I am not sure how Olive will do with us gone as she is so used to us being here during the day.  It is rare that we are gone for more than maybe 4 fours at a time.  Olive’s previous owners, our former neighbors both worked full-time and so she has lived that life.  Yet, she has been with us for almost a year and has grown accustomed to us being around.  I know we will pick up all the toys in the living room.  She has chewed a few toys on days when we were gone for a long stretch of time but only one toy per incident and I would say less than 5 times total.

I have come to appreciate aspects of life with a dog.  The happy, tail-wagging greeting whenever we return home.  Her unconditional love and acceptance of us as we are.  She listens well and can be trained easily with treats.  She does come when you call her (unless she is in pursuit of a cat or rabbit) and tolerates bathes and nail clippings as well hair cuts in a calm manner.   She is happy to go off in a corner when given a good bone.  She has learned to get off the couch when people are sitting on it~ well, will move as told, we are working on this.  Our youngest, Jason, has learned to be gentle and loves Olive.  Our oldest has learned to tolerate a dog in his home and even has helped to care for her.  I think having pets is wonderful for children.  We had a dog when I was young, but my sister, like my daughter, loved the dog and took full care of our dog.  I was very sad when our dog ran away from home and we never found him.  We only had him for about 3 or 4 years.

Olive is really a part of our family now even though some aspect of me still resists this.  When my husband had a heart attack and was in the hospital for 12 days, it seamed that Olive sat at the top of the stairs, almost watching over us but also waiting for him to come home.  I think my husband has bonded more with Olive than I have.  That part of me that still resists having a dog has not fully accepted that she is with us permanently now.  When our neighbors were still trying to sell their house, across the street from us, there was this possibility that they would move back but once they sold the house and new people moved in, that door closed.   It has been about 6 months now since that time.

My husband’s heart attack happened just shortly after our new neighbors moved in.  So now, that we are getting back to “regular life” do I find myself reflecting once again on life with a dog.   I feel that I am only now beginning to step back and reflect on life with a dog.  I know I could re read this post and likely want to re write it or start over.  Writing the post has propelled me in to thinking about it from a different perspective.  This post reflects where I am now (or where I was as a wrote it).  In my commitment to writing on a regular basis, I will share it for all to see.  Know that even now, I see it with a new perspective and possibly an altered title.  It is what it is: life with a dog, 11 months now and counting.