Friday, January 5, 2018

First Post Since September?!?!?!


A friend asked me today if I'd been blogging about what I've been up to lately and I responded, "Not in a month or two, but lots of thoughts brewing."

These words were swimming in my head and just wouldn't drown out so I had to log in and check when I last posted. It was September. September?!?!

It only took me a moment of looking at my blog post listings to see why.

I've been living a secret life.

There, I said it. Now you know. I am your real life Clark Kent.

I wish. It's nothing as glamorous as saving the world in my very own lycra one piece that I'm mysteriously always wearing under my clothes without anyone noticing. (you guys, the chafing would be unreal!!) I do look good in fake glasses though so that means I can't rule out my life going in this direction in the future.

The reality of my secret life can be seen as soon as you view my blog post listings. It is filled with Draft notifications. That is a true to life depiction of the word that practically shouted at me when I opened up my blog website today. Each of those drafts represents a secret. A story I needed to tell but didn't feel that I had permission to. It's so messy how our lives get all entwined with others.

Ewww, am I right. I may live on an island, but I am not one. My island is overflowing, in good and bad ways. I still haven't figured out how to share without the fear of what these people will think and feel about my words.

So, before I begin to tell you about where my life is now (and there's so much to say!), I feel that I need to fill you in on where my life has been this past year. It's a little dark and unfunny at times, but thank you sweet Lord Jesus for helping me make light of everything.

Here goes. **sound of bandaid ripping off** This is a small selection of last years secrets. Some I can share in their entirety, some are going to get a very broad overview. I spoke to the people involved to determine what level of sharing was acceptable and this is what we came up with together.

Draft - Living With A Child That You Can't Help - March 2017
Everyday you wake up and wonder, will today be a good day or a bad day?

You mentally go over your schedule and plan an out for every activity just in case you need it.
You tread lightly as you wake them or check with them for the first time that day. You don't want to be the one who sets them off. You pray every day that you can be their safe space.

Every grunt, sigh or groan they utter is immediately analyzed. Was it a normal teenage sigh? Was that groan the beginning of an anger shit storm? Does that grunt you heard from the other room mean they're hurting themselves or someone else?

As the day rolls along you get caught up in it and feel you can breathe more normally. You look around your house or your family and feel that familiar love, joy or contentment. Then you realize you can't see him. You mentally retrace to when you last saw them. You're racing through your brain in an uncontrollable frenzy, while on the outside maintaining the best semblance of calm that you can, as you quick step through the house looking for them. Sometimes they just got caught up reading in the bathroom, sometimes their hiding under covers and cowering, scared of themselves.

Every time they don't feel well you question whether they're faking, whether it's the meds or whether it's a common cold. You doubt yourself and feel you can't provide the care a mother's supposed to give her child. Whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. You're supposed to be 2 steps ahead but you always fail to see what's right around the corner.

Something triggers them and you search frantically for the source so you can protect them from it. Sometimes there is no source other than the paranoia in their own brain. Sometimes you're the source. It all feels insurmountable.

You watch them spiral and struggle to give them space as they grasp and fight to regain control. They ask to take a bath. Your first thought is yes! What a great way to calm down and feel better. As they head into the bathroom though you quietly put your ear to the door and hover. They saw a movie today where a kid tried to drown himself in a bathtub. Are they trying to copycat? You casually call out, "how's it going in there?" and try to hide the tremor in your voice.

You read another book, join another online support group and comb the internet one more time looking for answers, quick fixes, commiseration, understanding. You never find quite what you need.
It's their story to tell, not yours. You can't describe your struggle without theirs. When you finally confide, it's usually met with well intended judgement. People say it's typical teenage behavior, that they're manipulating you or that they just don't see it, your child seems fine to them.  

It all feels so alone but you go to bed with hope. Today they fought against it and won. They're still around to fight another day. Maybe tomorrow will be the day they find a magical cure or God performs a miracle. You turn off the light and climb into bed. Some nights you unburden your worries and fears on your partner, other nights you avoid it because you see the pain it causes. You will your mind to calm down and rest. You get up one last time to check in on them. They look peaceful and calm in their sleep and you feel like a crazy person. Maybe your just imagining it all. Seeing them calm helps your mind get the message to chill out and you drift off to sleep amazed at the ebb and flow of emotion that comes with each day in the life of a child with a mental illness.

**When talking with the child from this story about the possibility of sharing, he initially said no way. We talked more and decided that for now I need to leave his stories as drafts until they are resolved. Only then can I share in the hopes that maybe it will help others with similar struggles. I assured him that's its mostly my side of the story. He says he never wants to read these posts. We both may have cried, but I cannot confirm this, reputations may be at stake if I do.

This post is from when he first started self-harming. It was a very scary period. We sought help and through a powerful mix of God, support, medication and therapy things have gotten a lot better. He gets up everyday and fights through the negative thoughts that he can't control and strives to be the amazing brother, son and friend that we all know and love. Our relationship has grown so much closer through this process, that's something I'll always have mental illness to thank for. Other than that it kind of sucks.

Draft - 1st day of foster care - May 2017
I'm sitting and watching my sons swim during my first truly free moment of our first day providing temporary guardianship for a girl that I flew across the United States to get.
I've spent the first 1/2 of practice glancing at my son's occasionally as I put most of my focus into googling 1st time foster care. I read a lot of good suggestions and one that stuck was, document everything.
That brings me to now and writing this blog that I will never post. These unposted blogs help me get out feelings that I can't share or remember things that get lost in my turbulent life.
This girl is amazing. The journey of bringing her to my family was a turbulent one. She's an incredibly bright girl who seems to love everyone and everything. She has an infectious laugh and a very healthy dose of curiosity.
That being said, there are things that I'll be praying over and working on with her. She's incredibly independent. I mean that in an unsafe way. She doesn't stay with me when we're walking and she wanders the house alone and gets what she wants. She doesn't seem to have a concept of asking for things and being in a group.
When you correct her she tends to go completely blank faced or sometimes (especially if she's tired) you'll see her whole body shake or she'll whimper. She is going to need an extra kind tone and lots of reminders.
She says whatever is on her mind, and it's often inappropriate or unknowingly unkind. She is extremely appreciative of anything we give her and willingly shares everything. 
She is insistent on trying to call our littlest monster her sister and on reminding me that her mom is far away.
We're so thrilled to have her here and excited to get to know her better and learn how we can best help her in her journey.

**She's been living with us for almost 8 months now. Our agreement is to keep her for a year and then she goes back to her mom as long as all the conditions have been met. It's been a crazy rollercoaster adding a new person into our family and living everyday with the temporariness of it all. We'll know soon what is next for her. Her mom is doing well and trying hard. She is torn between 2 families that she loves and we are torn between wanting to keep her with us and wanting her to be with her mom who loves her dearly. Its a messy messy thing. I always thought I wanted to adopt or foster, but this whole situation has changed me. I find that I struggle daily to make sure I love her as much as my other children, treat them all fairly and to give her what she needs rather than what she wants. This has been a secret that you know if you're around us because you get to meet her, but not one for the world at large. The story is too big, the reasons are too long, and once again, it's not just my story to tell.

Draft - Downward Spiral - May 2018
Much like the Trump presidency, I feel I am witnessing the beginning of another downward spiral.
We've had 3 almost blissful weeks. You couldn't ruffle the kids feathers if you tried. He zoomed through months worth of schoolwork in days. He happily participated, planned and attended activities. He started wanting to make plans with friends. He got his first ever state swim time.
Then today he was up way to early. I knew it meant he hadn't slept well, but I tried to ignore it. We went to the gym and he had no goals. I saw him muddle through his workout and worried that he seemed off.
Throughout the day he checked in with me, notes of panic in his voice and eyes, double and triple checking what we were doing, at what times. Rehashing plans and seemingly grasping for control. I told myself I was overreacting.
He begged to go to the store with me. Now I know he was probably having one of his panic attacks where he needs an adult. At the time I couldn't figure out why he suddenly needed to go to Costco. My son, the finder, couldn't find basic groceries or figure out where we were in the store. It was like he was in a daze. I've never seen him like that. Ever.
Later his friends came over and I watched him withdraw. He tried to take a bath while they were still at our house in an attempt to escape. Long bathroom breaks, grunting replies and grinding teeth should have made things clear, but still I pushed him.
It's the end of the school year. He has days left to finish up schoolwork and get everything turned in. He hid schoolwork from me and knowingly failed tests, sure signs that things aren't well with him. By the time my husband made it home I was sure. I asked him to talk to our son, I was getting yelled at every time I tried. My husband didn't get it. He talked to him and played a game with him. The quality one on one time calmed our son but it didn't change the underlying unrest.
Finally, it's 10pm and he's crying and saying  he doesn't know what's wrong. Everything feels fuzzy and he can't concentrate. He agrees to email his counselor after I promise he doesn't have to go to school if things are still bad tomorrow.
But here's the thing, what if things are still bad tomorrow? I'm not sure I can handle another one of his spirals.  I'm now responsible for 4 other children and it's not fair how this affects them. I don't have an action plan. I don't know who to call or what to do. I don't know if it was just a bad day or the beginning of his next downward spiral. I'm terrified of tomorrow and finding out. I'm going to feel awful either way. I can't imagine how he feels. I just want him to be okay. He didn't ask for this. He doesn't deserve this. He needs a chance to just be a kid.

**This got scarier before it got better. He started hearing voices and getting extremely paranoid. We ended up changing his medication and everything improved. The thing that had helped save him months before was tearing him up. This one has been a big hurdle to get over. It's left him feeling crazy, his words, not mine. We all try to explain that medication did this to him, not his brain, not the disease, but it's left him feeling not in control and that's made him more guarded. There have been a lot of good months and he's made it through the bad ones like the champion that he is. But, it's hard to share. It's a big looming secret that doesn't have a lot of funny to it. I'm glad we've come to an agreement about ways that I can share, it feels like a weight off my shoulders.

Draft - It's not going how I thought it would go - all of 2017

**This one was all about my mom. She's been living with my family for almost 2 years now and I almost never say a word about her in the blogging world. There's a million funny stories and a million frustrating ones revolving around having her here with us. But, I still remain worried that she'll take something that I say wrong, we have very different senses of humor. For now these stories will remain drafts, until one day she reads them and okays them or she dies and I write it all as a memoir and pray that she can laugh about it all in heaven. For now just know that living with my mom is not going how I thought that it would go. She had another stroke this past summer and I was reminded that that is why she is here. So that we're close by during these emergency situations. She recovered amazingly well, the only side affect was a reminder to me that I need and want to keep her close by no matter what. That being said, she is ready for some independence and so am I. We are actively looking for housing for her where she can remain nearby but we can all gain a little space and perspective. I think it will make us all appreciate each other more. If not, than we're not very good people.

Draft - Health woes have me like whoa! - September through December 2017

** This was not the actual title, there were just a bunch of unfinished blog posts relating to my health. After my moms stroke, her doctor told me that my sisters and I needed to go get checked for a hereditary lipid disorder. The disorder lies at the heart of my moms medical problems and there was a chance that we might have it. It's a silent disease, you don't see the symptoms of plugged arteries, strokes and other problems until it's too late to fix them. I called my sisters and told them to get checked. I did not get checked. It took me several months to work up the courage to even make the appointment and then I had to wait almost 4 weeks before I went. It was agonizing and I had myself convinced that I was dying. As it turns out, I ended up finding a great doctor who was very kind to me as she explained that I was extremely overweight and ordered a million blood tests to check for the disorder. The results came in and the numbers weren't good. She instructed me to make some big lifestyle changes and to get rechecked in 3 months to see what the changes had done to the numbers. I thought she had explained that we wouldn't know if I had high numbers because I was fat or because of the disorder. I went back to see her 2 months later for something unrelated and discovered that I technically had the disorder whether I was fat or not. I was not prepared for this. I still had another month to go until I could recheck my numbers. I fell into a mental black hole as I tried to reassure myself that I wouldn't have strokes in my 50's, that I'd be able to walk and hike with my grandkids. My powers of persuasion were not strong. But...the lifestyle changes worked wonders. I dropped over 400 points off my triglyceride levels. They are still way too high, but I got into a respectable range for someone with the disorder. It means the lifestyle changes are going to be permanent and I'll have to get checked regularly, but I'm down 30lbs from when this all started and I am confident that I am doing everything I can to be as healthy as I can be, I hope it's enough, but worrying won't change anything. My family, especially my husband, have been insanely supportive as I've changed how we eat, the time I need to exercise, and on us all focusing on living healthier. I t just felt like a woe is me blog post every time I tried to say something so I never finished my thoughts or clicked post as the story unfolded last year.

Draft - The Big Move - September through December 2017

** Once again, this subject never warranted fully written posts because you can tell the internet world things until you've handled it all in the real world. People get very touchy about this stuff. Last year, my husband and I began entertaining the idea of moving from the island that we've lived together on for the last 17 years. We've talked about moving A LOT over the course of our marriage, but there are always insurmountable hurdles of one type or another that keep us here. This time was different. Everything kept coming up roses no matter how much we tried to find weeds. And so that brings us to the last, but not least secret, we are moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado in May 2018. There will be lots more to come on this subject but for now it feels good to get it out in the open. It was too many months of whispering behind closed doors and worrying about the sadness of the wonderful people that we're leaving behind. Now it's a new year with a new focus on the greatest adventure our family has yet to experience, moving across the country as a family of 7 with a dog, a mom and a sister in tow. Life is good.