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

Posts tagged ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’

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”

 

 

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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.

Reflections on a simple but miraculous evening with my family

I wrote the first draft of this blog, two weeks ago.  I had forgotten about writing this and even the experience we had just two weeks ago.   Life has been so moment to moment for me lately.   I  have had a particularly  challenging week and so my own blog has helped me to gain insight and perspective.  Here is the post:

I had a success moment last night, so I thought I would share it.

Many months ago (I can’t even remember when I did this,might be over a year ago), I sat down with my older two children individually and asked them what their goals were (in words they understood, one is now 13 and the other 8).  and wrote down what they wanted to work on and made a plan as well as looking at the week.
It was the best connection I had with my 8-year-old (or she might have been 7 at the time, to date with our “home/unschool journey”.  She had many ideas and talked about what she wanted to do.  I wrote it down and we even got books on animals at the library like she wanted and started a notebook for her like she asked for.  I think we met again one more time but then life got in the way…
Her issues snowballed into full-blown ocd last spring and my youngest became more active as he got closer to two years….
Then I  hurt my back New Year’s eve and pain sure brings perspective.
I was “out of it” for 2 weeks, at home but taking 600 mg of ibuprofen every day (and I almost never take pain medication) and laying down most of the time because standing and sitting were too painful.  I had a lot of thinking time.    Once I felt better,  I really wanted to sit down with each child and look at our week.  For the past 4 months or so, I’ve been working nearly every weekend, usually Sat and Sun and so when I get home, I am tired and we eat and then its time to start bedtime routine.
So I seized the opportunity before I went back to work and sat down with each child again on a Sunday.  My husband and I talked some first, looking at our calendars, something we used to do often but have not been doing for way too long despite both of us bringing it up saying we wanted to.  And then I went in the basement with my 13-year-old.
He opened up and shared his frustrations.  Something he has not had much of a chance to do but has needed to with  how the past year has been with me watching a toddler and caring for my  8-year-old daughter who has OCD.  And I wrote some of what we talked about as far as a plan of our days and what he wanted to work on.    And after about a half hour, my toddler needed mommy and he came down with us but we were able to continue talking for a bit longer.
And then I had time with my daughter while she played solitaire.  I think she needed that to help her concentrate and keep the OCD thoughts at bay.  And it was good.
Now this is after me bringing up this idea  just before dinner and her getting mad and resisting all my ideas, saying she wanted to play cards.  Despite my efforts to point out how this has been helpful to both her and us in the past, she resisted  and kept interrupting me.  I got mad, but appropriately expressed it!  (big for me) I let her know how I felt and why I was upset and how important I felt this was for all of us.
So after we talked, she was doing the best she has in a while!!!!!!!!
So despite her initial resistance, I needed to stay strong but kind and calm and keep on and in the long run(as in that same day), it helped her!  And i saw it that evening….she was talking on and on as we got ready for bed and playing with her younger brother.   a sure  sign of how well she was doing, with the OCD, she gets stuck and is in this angry, stuck place where she resists getting ready for bed and needs to wash her hands but doesn’t want to, but has too….and on and on and on…
So this was huge, to see her talking and talking like she used to and happy!
And I looked at my husband and despite his desire for quiet time in the evening, I said just enough, to keep him from stopping her from her enthusiasm and loud playfulness.   She also showed  her little brother how to brush his teeth.  Another good sign, because usually she freaks out if he comes in the bathroom with her when she is brushing her teeth.
We now really know, we can not “hush” her when we want quiet, because it can hush her spirit, and that is not good.    As I type this and think about this, it was just last night, it feels like a miracle with all we have been through.  Sure she still can’t sit down and her list of things she can not touch grows and grows, but, she had fun with her brother in the evening and jabbered on in her old self, happy-go-lucky full of imagination, Abby self that we have missed so much over the past year with her tormented soul going through OCD.

Homeschooling life with my second child: experiencing OCD, the begining

I believe that all children have special needs and all children learn in their own methods and need to be treated like individuals.  I too, understand, having a background in Occupational Therapy, that some children have extra special needs that can make learning and living more challenging.  I have come  to really appreciate this more from an insider’s perspective over the past year.

When I began homeschooling my first child, I did so in part because of his personality.  He learned to read early and enjoyed everything academic.  He would become interested in something and would focus on his interest to an extreme for a long period of time.  He attended a morning out preschool from the time he was one until he was four.  I saw how he was not learning anything “academic” in his “preschool” but he was there for part-time day care and not for preschool.  Having a “late birthday”, November, made him older than his preschool peers and combined with his early reading and writing abilities, exaggerated the fact that he was not learning anything in preschool and that kindergarten would not be a good fit for him.  Homeschooling him was and continues to be “easy”.

Before you stop reading or shout things at me through the computer, let me tell you about my second child.  My daughter, born 4 years after my son, came into the world where her older brother was reading and writing.  He liked to tell her how to do things and do things for he.  She is an independent child, always has been and resisted her older brother’s attempts to show her anything.  She wanted to do it for herself!

I did not realize how unusual my oldest child’s attention span was or how calm he was, until my daughter was born.  My son walked at 16 months and was often content sitting doing one activity for a long period of time.  My daughter had more of a “typical attention span” and walked at a year and got into things my son never even attempted to do, like pulling off the child safety latch with ease or climbing on chairs.  She was busy and outgoing and liked being with people.  We soon saw her extroverted nature which can be a challenge to my son and I who are introverts (although we fall closer to the mid-line of introvert extrovert, her energy overwhelms us.)

Life became more challenging when she wanted to participate in activities but could not because she was not yet “5” as if there is something magical about that age. We started her in dance when she was 4, something she wanted to do since she began to talk, which she did at an early age.  And once she was 5, she could begin participating in more homeschool activities like PE class and other things like her brother does.

By this time, we were embracing a more and more unschooling lifestyle and way of approaching learning.  She was slower learning to read than her brother, but I trusted in the process despite her frustration and in time she began reading.  And amazingly (or not so) by about age 7 was reading at the same level her older brother was at that age.  But other things came slower, like writing, which is still slow.  She can make letters and enjoys the act of writing but writing words is a challenge.  I have struggled with how best to approach other things with her in our homeschooling life  Although I embrace unschooling as my approach to learning, I have always been open to doing what works for my children.  I believe that my son’s style of learning more closely resembles my own and so his journey of learning has appeared easier to me and I have been comfortable with our path.

I have attempted a variety of things with my daughter but likely did not give things enough time, as she seems to always resist anything I put forth.  Over the years, I believe I have become hesitant to even try things with her because she has such strong resistance to my ideas and efforts.  I have seen hypersensitivity issues with her but have always figured she is a more “typical child”.

It’s crazy how I can have a degree in Occupational Therapy which includes an education with pediatric development and disorders and yet miss signs in my own children.  My oldest had very delayed gross motor skills but it took me some time to really see it.  And my daughter has had many issues that I still do not see clearly.

A few years ago, she began over washing her hands and we thought it was my talk with her about germs.  Then we discovered that reading the book “The Velveteen Rabbit” had instilled her fear of germs and we thought letting her know that was written years ago when things were not clearly understood (they threw out all his toys because the boy was ill) and talking about this would eliminate her over hand washing. It lessened at some point but continued. About a year or so ago, when she was 7, we began to see irrational fears, like her food being poisoned, to the point of her not being able to eat and crying. I attributed some of it to learning to swim and doing new things in swim lessons.

But looking back there was more.  She really had a difficult time getting out of the house to go anywhere including dance class which she loved.  She craved being at home more which seamed odd for the girl who used to ask “Where are we going today?” and craved being with other children.  There were other fears too and difficulty sleeping at night.

Add to that a new baby brother born a month prior to her 7th birthday (January 2009) and an over sensory experience being a part of his birth, and us missing the signs or not really seeing all that was going on with her, and by early 2010 things exploded.  Around March of 2010, her bedtime difficulty turned in to refusing to sleep at night and crazy unreasonable demands to have the wood floors fully cleaned our replaced before she would sleep.  Somehow it all blew up into a germ obsession centered around her room and soon she began showering daily and then could only go in her room if she had just showered and there was a ritual with towel placement from outside the shower to her room.

On top of all this, an already discerning eater, she began refusing to eat most things .At  first we allowed her to pick what she would eat, taking her to the store where she picked all white flour, dairy and sweet items.  This never felt right with me as I have always been a “health nut” when it comes to eating and feed my family whole grains and limited diary for her as a young child when I saw signs of intolerance to dairy (something I personally experience as well).  We have improved our eating over the years to less refined foods, less processed and minimal artificial ingredients in food.  Looking back, with the birth of our third child, we were eating more processed foods, more eating out, and more sugar.

To add to the craziness, I took her to two alternative health practitioners that I had been going to and trusted and both suggested eliminating sugar and diary.  Her obsessive, compulsive nature took this to hear and she agreed to going off all sugar, fruit included.  And so without much knowledge (and looking back on this, not a very bright idea) we both went cold turkey off sugar!  Only later did I realize and read about sugar withdrawal which only compounded her behavior issues that were already over the top and out of control.

Those early months were a crazy time.  I read and researched enough to see that she likely was experiencing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  I also knew a grown woman with OCD as well as the mother of a teen age daughter with OCD to feel confident that this is what we were dealing with.  And yet, I actively avoided labeling her.  I saw no benefit in giving her that label, even though my husband and I used it among ourselves and with others but not with her around.  The experience was surreal.  Difficult to describe and yet a true lesson in living in the moment.  We learned what to do and what not to do the hard way, after holding her down, to prevent her from hurting herself and others and to prevent her from stopping my husband from leaving for work or my son from going to an activity.  We bounced around from engaged, reflective parents to angry, resentful controlling parents who just wanted our life back, and our child back!  The entire experience disrupted life for our entire family.  My oldest, now 12 was resentful of her behavior and how attention seeking she seamed and h ow much time it took of us, and therefore time away from him. And the baby was just a year and began imitating her angry outbursts, fits of rage, and physical behavior.  He became frightened with her and surely could not understand why his favorite playmate would not play with him now.

And then she began getting acupressure treatments and taking herbs from our Chinese Medicine healthcare professional specialist. And we saw improvements, especially in her behavior as well as her obsessions and compulsions.  Life became almost normal again and I had time to do other things.  I think that part of me wanted to believe that everything was ok and so I did not spend as much time as I could have continuing to seek help for her.  I wanted to on some level but on another, I was so drained from months of exhausting nights and challenging behaviors that brought me to wonder if our only hope was to call 911 or take her to the emergency room.  And so as things improved, I just wanted to live life and have some time to myself.  I became engrossed in a writing project and also was involved with a mother’s empowerment group.  These things were great for me and for my entire family, including my daughter.  I was feeling better and as always, my mental health was reflected back to me in my family.

As I look back on it, I see how it was difficult for me to step outside of it. I wanted to seek more help for her, but first needed help for myself.  I too have issues with depression and anxiety, never officially diagnosed for myself but it runs in my family.

To summarize, things got worse again and gave us the wake up call we needed to seek others sources of help.  On a positive note, my husband and I share parenting beliefs as well as spiritual beliefs which have helped us navigate this journey together.  We have made mistakes together along the way and in doing so have learned what not to do.  Our improved behavior and calmer attitude with our daughter, brought improved behavior with her. Sure, we still make mistakes and at times have a difficult time remaining calm when she is out of control with anger and irrational demands but we both see how important it is to remain calm and how our anger only fuels hers and adds to the problem.

We are still knee-deep in this journey but have found renewed hope with homeopathy.  We have also found comfort talking with another parent with a daughter with OCD who had tried most of the psychotherapy approaches for OCD wanting to avoid medications and then found homeopathy and have seen amazing improvements with it over the past year with their daughter.

I have learned that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is NOT a child who wants things a certain way and is overly neat or organized.    This does not describe my daughter at all.  I have learned that having a child with “special needs” is not something anyone else can really understand.  I have felt the need to record and share my journey, knowing that others too are going through similar challenges with their children and how alone they must feel.  I have learned that people often pull away when you need them most especially when they can not imagine what you are experiencing or when it makes no sense to them.

I saw OCD described as a “silent disorder” which is a good way to label it.  To other people, it is not obvious or even apparent all that my daughter and our family has been experiencing.  They might see her dry, cracked hands and think she has exema.  They do not see what is going on within her, even as her parents, we can not see what has been going on inside of her.  She has always been a very verbal child but this has not been something she can verbalize too us.  What comes out is anger and demands.  It has taken much patience on our part, hearing about what others have gone through with OCD, and listening to her to even have a glimpse of what she is experiencing.  I think her inability to express what she is going through is in part due to her age, and in part due to the nature of OCD and the fact that it does not make any sense.

I have seen the value of activity to improve one’s life both as a homeschooling mom and through my education as an Occupational therapist where I learned, “Man through the use of his hands, can influence the state of his own health.”

I jumped on this knowledge over the summer with my daughter’s interest in learning to knit.  I invited my friend who knows how to knit and crochet to our house and one of Abby’s friends who wanted to learn this as well.  Abby learned to knit and crochet and I relearned to crochet and after a 30 year break, learned the next step of crochet, making more than a single chain.  A new hobby and one we could share has been helpful on our journey.  And yet, it is not enough to engage her.

She told me recently after having a family ornament making night, that doing a craft ” takes her mind off cleaning”.  This was huge!  The first time she acknowledged the irrational nature of her cleaning obsessions and saw a way to deal with it.

It also reinforced for me the idea that I need to create more experience like our knitting, crocheting gatherings.  I need to approach our life and her “homeschool experience” in this manner.  I need to invite people over our house for activities more to meet her needs to both be at home and to be with friends.  I think having a bit more structure is helpful to her as well, like getting together for knitting or for crafts or some other purpose would be helpful to her.  I am still figuring all of this out.

And when I look back, I see I am still struggling with the same issue I have her entire life, how to homeschool  my second child, how best to meet her needs, something that seamed to come so easy with my first child.    It has been magnified now and maybe brought more to light with her experience with OCD.  Yes, life is much more complicated now.  As her mother, I would  give anything to take this burden away from her if I could.  It hurts to see her childhood  innocence “shattered” with this experience.  Yet, on a deeper level, I know that this too is God and part of her journey.  My role is to stay calm and present despite her behavior and that has been a challenge.

As I have grown on my spiritual journey over the years, I have grown to believe in having no regrets.  This experience has been a real test to that belief  and there is so much I wish I could “redo”.  Yet, I must embrace what is, the life we have and my daughter as she is.