On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Manifest Destiny

AB's OT is awesome. Have I mentioned that before? She comes to the house and does all kinds of great stuff with him, but predominantly social stories. This past week she had a spot of wisdom for me. Once kids hit the double digits between 11 and 15, subtract ten years and that's how old they act

See, that's why Sissy is acting 2. She's 12. Finally she's "normal". LOL

My readership numbers are steadily declining. My life is suddenly uninteresting. Such is the price to pay for a life that isn't filled with daily chaos. Of course, chaos is relative. I still had to call the crisis team yesterday for Sissy because she was melting down, so irritable, so whiny, so...TWO. She got over it and her therapist came to the rescue and whisked her away for a few hours.

When she returned we went to the indoor pool at the Y, having not been in several months because it was being renovated. I forgot how much I love the water. I was certain an hour and a half in the pool would be prefect to calm everyone's frayed nerves but, alas it wasn't to be. By the time we returned home, all three of the kiddos were crying-screaming-melting down on me again. My error? I let them get too hungry.

Food and VOILA! All was well again. Heck, I even got them to do chores yesterday for allowance money, a first that I hope to replicate weekly. The issue has always been finding the extra cash to throw their way for doing things they should already be expected to do. I'm acutely aware that other children at these ages; 12, 11 and 7, are doing household chores regularly with or without monetary incentive. i know that's where I've been remiss as a mom but honestly, my energy has been so singularly devoted to therapeutically parenting them that the mundane things of childhood have fallen to the wayside. It's nice to be redirecting our family course to something resembling normal.

Their respite provider who has become my friend in no time at all stopped by later during the bedtime hour just to "hang out" but by golly, I'm awfully glad she did. Without a word, she stepped in and managed the bedtime routines with Sissy for me. None too soon, I was about to go lulu on her. Around seven, just before Sissy takes her bedtime meds her brain just stops. Some days I have the patience for it and other days I just can't deal. Last night was one of those nights. So glad to have a rescuer! I can't seem to convince her to move in...

Throw in the immediate return to the classroom directly after returning from Orlando, I'm swamped. And gloomy. Going to the annual ETAAM event in Orlando is so perfect but the unconditional love I receive from all of those amazing moms makes my heart ache when it disappears.

So many mixed emotions. I'm glad things in life have settled down, it's still astonishing to me. But I was so used to being on high alert that it's still an adjustment to this less frazzled pace. I'm glad to have a job and I'm enjoying my students but I miss the quiet afternoons alone. I'm eternally grateful for the ETAAM moms because they keep me grounded but I miss them desperately. Thursday I got sick and had to leave school early. I was feeling like I did last August, stress-induced illness. It hit me so fast. When I got home I flopped in the bed and didn't do anything until the next morning. So many changes so fast - even though they're good changes, it still causes stress.

The light at the end of the tunnel gets closer every day. I just have to keep walking, one foot in front of the other. And somehow, some way, get myself plugged into that unconditional love that I get from my ETAAM sisters, every day.

How does one do this, live this journey of pain and survive? I'm living it and yet I don't have an answer to the question. I just know it's possible because I believe it to be so, a manifest destiny.

Off to the barn for AB's riding therapy then. Have a blessed Sunday!

Monday, March 19, 2012

What about Bob?

Have you ever seen that movie, What about Bob?  A quirky and slightly off-kilter psych patient follows his psychiatrist stalks his doctor on his family vacation and ruins EVERYTHING but wins the heart of everyone except his doctor.  In the end, it's the doctor that gets the psychiatric care while Bob waxes philosophical about his journey through his mental illness to wellness.  The movie is aptly titled as the phrase, "What about Bob?" comes up a lot. 

Although I don't liken myself to the quasi-psychotic Bob,  I do relate to the phrase, "What about Bob?"  In this odyssey through the dark corners of mental illness with my children, I've often wanted to shout over the cacophony of talking therapists and doctors, "Hey what about me?!?!"

I'm happy to report that I can wax philosophical  with Bob now.  I went to my doctor appointment today, nearly a year after my string of panic attacks and the inception of my medication and therapy to manage it and am happy to report that my doctor is pleased with my progress.  With his permission, I'm going to begin coming off one of my medications. 

I've returned to the classroom at my former place of employment. I know, I said initially that I didn't want to return to the classroom but necessity is the mother of invention.  In this case, money has driven me to it.  But since Sissy is so much better and because her health was one of the contributing factors to my resignation two and a half years ago, I feel safe to return. It's also a much different classroom and administration environment so I feel confident that I'll be glad I've made this choice.

As for my therapy, I'm blossoming by leaps and bounds.  I've added a group therapy to the individual work and have actually learned more in group in the last three months than I have in the introspective work I've been doing for the past three years. That said  I don't recommend one over the other.  Both have their place in personal healing.  I'm hoping that within the year my individual therapist will be willing to dismiss me.  *crossing fingers*

Lastly, although I've not formally applied, my career intentions are to get a masters and a PhD in social work with the ultimate goal of being in the classroom educating the future therapists of the world.  I've learned so much and I feel as though I have much to offer in return.  I'm excited to be making this step, getting a PhD has long been on my "bucket list".  I hope to begin online classes by the fall and an internship for the clinical hours with the agency that has worked with my daughter the past two years.

And THAT is what is up with "Bob"

Be good to yourself, that's all you can do.

japanese proverb "my barn having burned to the ground, now I can see the moon."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Five Forever

We enjoyed a long  but lazy day at the beach yesterday.  Even brought the dog because I feel like she's getting too old to leave behind for a day.  She's currently sacked out on the bedroom floor, glaring at me whenever I walk by as if to say i am seriously too old for those types of adventures, just sayin'

Some braved the waters.  I preferred to just get my feet wet while my kids proceeded to soak their shorts (and then complain).  Gracie wasn't so sure of the waves but admittedly felt relieved when her paws were cooled.  AB talked and talked and talked not realizing that because of the ocean and the wind, it was nearly impossible to hear what he was saying.  Sissy ran and jumped and gathered shells, using her shirt as a basket.  I reminded her that five was all she could take home so she should keep the five best ones.  [1]

As I watched Sissy run up and down the beach, holding one side of her shorts up so they wouldn't fall down, her hair blowing all over, her shorts soaked, her shirt riding up, her awkward running gait and her giddy expression I realized I will always have a five year old.  She was so cute to watch, so happy and so unaware.  I may age but she never will.  And actually, that's not so bad now is it?  Who wouldn't love to live life for eternity at age five?

[1] It mystifies therapists and makes moms of RADlets laugh (or cringe).  Hoarding of shells, rocks or trash seems to be the norm for children with attachment issues.  I figure it has something to do with forming attachment to an inanimate object that cannot hurt them.  And it's easy to assign beauty to such objects when you're emotionally evaluating things at age five (or two).  To keep the hoard from overwhelming her, I cap Sissy off at 5 items.  That way I'm also encouraging her to assign an ascending value to her items.  It's a skill we all have to learn - prioritizing - but it's especially hard for kids with trauma and abuse histories.  And then once in a while, when I notice that she's no longer gazing longingly at her special treasures, I purge her room of said objects sending them back to the earth for her to find once more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another one bites the dust

Yesterday I attended the final meeting for Sissy's LIPT case (see side bar for acronym dictionary).  I had nothing but great things to tell them.  I was all too happy to say that my daughter is doing better.  This afternoon her IFI supervisor stopped by to say farewell because Sissy's stepping down to CORE services and hopefully being assigned to the same therapist as before. 

I hesitate to say how well Sissy is doing because I know how it feels to be on the other end of the spectrum - wishing a child well and knowing s/he will never accomplish it.  Sissy is indeed well - suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, threats of harm to others, dissociative identity concerns and schizophrenic tendencies - all have ceased.  By that measure, she is well.

But she'll always have deficits, always be a RAD, isn't likely to be a tax-paying wage earner and will be dependent on a care giver indefinitely.  She's not likely to catch up on her developmental delays or social struggles and will always choose tears and screams over cool-downs and processing appropriately.  And redirection? That will always be a skill she'll need help with.

Still, at this place with her, three months home as of tomorrow, I am dumbfounded.  I have more than my "daughter back", I have the daughter I always knew she could be.  She hugs! She laughs!  She expresses herself with language instead of shutting down and dissociating.  She is witty and hormonal.  She is funny and thoughtful.   She rocks in her sleep (SO cute) and plays nicely with the dog.  She even made A/B honor roll this past nine weeks!

If the time comes that my daughter returns to the dark place of mental illness, I will have this time to remind her that she made it through once, she'll make it through again.

This morning, after taking the kids to school, I was driving past the giant water tower, slowing down to peer out the windshield at the dozen or so turkey vultures roosting on the side walls, patiently waiting. morbid scene I thought to myself as I drove past the road kill on the white dashed line.  everyone has a job to doI'm glad the vultures are eager to the task of removing such a gruesome sight.  I sure don't want that jobBut just look at them! They can't wait until the traffic clears to swoop down and gobble that up!

It occurred to me as I drove further on the same road toward the turn that leads to my little subdivision that parenting children through abuse, trauma, attachment disorder, developmental delay and mental illness IS a gruesome job that most people don't want to undertake and yet, someone has to do it.  I haven't always been an eager, hungry turkey vulture jumping at the chance to swoop in and help my daughter but I haven't given up either.  Now that I see that she has the capacity for wellness, I doubt I ever will.

Is this the end of this journey?  It's been such a long, hard road; such a bizarre, horrific odyssey of pain, sorrow and grief. I don't think it's the end of the journey but a new chapter.  One in which I hope to help others find their peace in their puzzles.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Onward, Upward

It's been an interesting week post-Orlando. Last week at this time I was getting on I95 South, anxiously anticipating the bridge that delivered me into the great state of Florida. Can I just say that Jacksonville is one busy place? Yowza. Glad I'm not living there!

We've been hooping. WG is a whiz, even with the big hoop. It's hysterical to watch her wiggle her tiny little body and make that giant hoop go around and around. Sissy likes the smaller hoop with the foam cushions. I prefer the big hoop with the rice because the metronome rhythm of the rice moving in the hoop is very soothing. Of course, I have bruises to show for my work but at least my abs no longer burn and ache!

My henna tattoo is still as beautiful as ever.  It's a gorgeous visual reminder of the love we shared.  Sissy was afraid it was permanent and that I wouldn't like it there forever and would have to endure the pain of laser surgery for removal. When I explained that it was only temporary she settled down some but I think the idea was still unsettling for her.  I enjoyed her concern for my welfare.  HUGE milestone, that is

After a very therapeutic hooping half hour with Sissy on Tuesday in which she openly discussed some very heart-heavy thoughts and emotions, she came unglued and by the time we were home, she was in a full body restraint all over toothpaste. Ah, well. Such is the price of vulnerable openness. I still have to give her props though because after the restraint she was able to tell me what was really bothering her - a boy is bullying her at school. I didn't even have to call the school to report it. By Wednesday afternoon the vice-principal was talking to me about it because SISSY told her that morning. WOW. Wow, wow.

My sis has been delightful to have around. I've really enjoyed our time. She snuggles with me at night and has gotten me hooked on an RPG game. After the kids have gone to bed we've sat on the sofa or at the table playing on our laptops. So fun!

AB is excited to finally have his dental spacer removed. He had a tooth pulled when he was six and to prevent his teeth from realigning so the adult molar couldn't push through, the dentist put in a spacer to retain the opening at the gum line. On Wednesday it came free with little effort as his adult molar is about to erupt. I'll tell ya, I had no idea getting teeth was such an ordeal. I truly do not remember this process, I only know that I now have adult teeth. AB and Sissy still have seven teeth each to lose! And Sissy's panoramic x-ray shows three wisdom teeth moving up. Geez.

The state writing test for fifth grade was on Wednesday and both AB and Sissy performed well according to the school staff. Here's to IEPs in which they both get small group testing outside of the classroom. Last year Sissy failed miserably and this year AB's teachers were concerned that he wouldn't pass either. Here's to success!

This week is reauthorization for Sissy's IFI therapy. She'll be stepping down to Core/CSI. It means a new team but probably folks we already know. Sissy's been Core/CSI before with this agency so I doubt we'll have to do more than reacquaint ourselves. I still can't believe she's doing so well. I mean, sure, she had a full body restraint on Tuesday but it wasn't a four hour long rage fest that required hospitalization. It was fifteen minutes of her hollering and me calmly talking to her while I brushed her teeth. Such a difference. SO amazing.

As for me, I'm amazed every day. I'm astounded at my confidence and my renewed hope. I'm quiet and refreshed, rejuvenated and thinking of ways to improve myself, my quality of life and achieve some long-forgotten dreams on my bucket list. Though it be a rainy day, to me, it still appears metaphorically sunny and filled with hope. Did Orlando do that for me? Yes and no. I think I was already wandering to this place of peace in myself. The beautiful women that went to Orlando just reaffirmed it in my soul - like setting concrete.

I also surrendered anger for the lenten season. It has helped immensely to breathe through that emotion every time it emerges.

For the first time in all my 37 years, I feel like my life is mine. It's an incredible feeling. I wish I could hand this gift to everyone that aches and yearns but as it seems to be, it is a journey for the willing. It requires perseverance, compassion, patience, determination, strength, courage, love, wisdom, an open mind and hope beyond measure.

I'm astonished to learn that I have those tools. I'm equally astonished that others ask to borrow them from me. Never in a million years would I have envisioned myself as someone others regarded highly. I'm humbled and overwhelmed.

Onward, Upward. Be true to yourself this day and always.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thank you!

The Orlando trip for ETAAM 2012 would not have been possible without blog readers, friends and family. From the auction and other fund raisers last summer to donations of products, cash and gas cards to purchases on our various online stores, ALL of you made this year a rousing success.

This year I made new friends and loved on my old friends. I was "house mom" for the most incredible women. I laughed until it hurt. I learned to hula hoop and even came home with two from friends that wanted to share. I learned new parenting tools and cooking recipes, I relaxed and soaked up sun. I basked in the glow of 90 women that are raising traumatized and/or attachment challenged children just like me. I feel refreshed, revived and ready to stay the course. I even came home with a van full of extra groceries and managed to swing by Ocala to snag my youngest sister so she could come hang out for awhile. She's currently sleeping on WG's lower bunk.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful - every last second. THANK YOU so very much to all of you that helped in every way imaginable. You're contribution has made a lasting difference for so many.

Love to all my friends, readers and family!
photo courtesy of Mamadrama

My sister and Me after she woke up.  She said she was still all sleepy-head
 but i made her get the picture anyway. 
Her tips for dreads: "Just stop combing your hair"