Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Silver Hair -Don't Care.

A few weeks ago I looked in the mirror and winced. Yikes! Who in the hell is that? I wanted to cry over how old and tired I looked. The gray hair is in the process of doing a massive takeover. I have been vacillating back and forth over the past year whether or not to let it happen. When it was just one little patchy area, I thought it looked kind of cool, like a natural highlight.  However,  as the gray started spreading like a disease, I've had mixed emotions over it. 

According to my history of personal Facebook posts, I have been having this gray hair argument in my head for quite some time. That Facebook "On This Day" feature can be cool, but sometimes a little depressing when you see some pathetic post you made 2 years ago about the same subject that you're currently still whining about. 

I  digress...
I like to consider myself to be somewhat of a natural woman. I no longer put chemicals to straighten my hair. I don’t do the weave thing that a lot of black women do.  Looks great on some of you, but it's too damn hot here in Texas for extra hair. That's why I cut off my long dreads. I wear just enough makeup to accent my facial features and fade a few blemishes, but I don’t overdo it. 

I realize now, the reason I wanted to cry when I looked in the mirror makeup less, exhausted, with more gray hair than I realized, is because I wasn’t happy with myself.  Self confidence had flown out the window. The reflection told the truth of the life that was literally being sucked out of me from years of giving more of myself than I actually could spare. I was allowing myself to be abused and in a way, I was abusing myself. My kindness and love was being taken for weakness. I was giving myself away piece by piece, gray by gray, puffy eyes, disrupted sleep cycles and lost appetite.  It wasn’t a good look -as in not pretty.At.All. It certainly was not  the way I wanted to feel. 

There are people in this world who are takers.  It may not be any fault of their own. Sometimes as parents, we love our children so much that we spoil them and they get used to it especially, when we feel bad for the extreme challenges that they face. There is a saying, "Be careful what you do for your child with autism. They will expect you to do it over and over again." 

Some takers may have a psychological issue or problems with perspective. Some are just black holes that can never be filled up.  I know a few people like that. I'm sure you do too. When a taker knows that  a giver loves them unconditionally, they see no reason to stop asking for more. 
Beauty is a state of mind...
Sooner or later, givers have to learn to stand up for themselves and say, “Sorry dude, but we’re all sold out here. I got nothing for you,”  or better yet, “I love you, but I love myself more. If I don’t take care of myself, I will have nothing to give you or anyone else."

It took me a very long time to stand up and say that to the son whom I love ALMOST as much as I love myself. I have given you a good foundation. I have put a wealth of supports in place for you, but I have to take care of me. I think it will be better for both of us if I love you from a distance for now. 
In other words, it's not you's me.

Today I looked in the mirror and not only was the sparkle back in my eyes, but the gray no longer made me look old and tired, it had turned into sparkling silver highlights. And I was rocking it! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

A New Home

It was his senior year and we all were anxious to get him out of the high school environment. And by we, I mean his father, myself and his high school special education team. High school was crushing his spirit, making him so unhappy and angry.  

He finished all of his credits by December and by that January, he would be starting Transition classes.  We were invited to attend Open House for the Adult Transition program to get an idea of what his new adventure would look like. The Open House took place at the community college campus. This is where he would have class a couple of times per week. I remember being excited about that aspect. My son …on a college campus, before he even graduated from high school. 

As I sat through the presentation, observing the various students and listening to the information being presented, I wondered to myself, “Is this right for him? Is this what he really needs?” 
He’s so intelligent.  I wanted him to take an actual college class or two. 
Was he ready for college classes? Not really. He needed so much support in the high school setting. 
Was he living up to his potential? Hardly, but I didn’t think it was  because he didn’t have the ability to reach further. I thought his lack of achievement was because he had been bogged down in the social quagmire of high school. 

Maybe the thing holding him back was the medication that he was taking. It did not allow his brain to work the way it did when he was in elementary school and even middle school before he started taking it. I had a list of rationalizations for why he wasn’t doing as well as he could. I was making excuses in my mind of why he wasn't able to live up to my dreams for him.  It had to be some outside factor that was out of his control and mine. 

Up until the 8th grade, he had no need for extra help from special education.  Sure, he needed a few accommodations …but nothing like the level of help that was required to get him through high school. 

In hindsight and in reality, did he end up needing the Adult Transition program? Absolutely! 
Did the transition out of the the high school environment make everything better? Absolutely not. It was just the beginning of a whole new set of issues. 

I did not allow my apprehension, fear of change or my dreams of something better for him, stop me from getting what he really needed. We enrolled in the transition program and he made slow but sure progress, rising from the first level of the program to the 2nd level (which provided less support) within a year's time.  

Effective parenting is not always about the dreams we have for our children. We have to do what needs to be done in order to take them to the next level of growth.  This was no different then when he was in the first grade and the school attempted to give him an ADHD diagnosis.  They’re just trying to label my child …put him in a box (I thought).  So, I had my own private testing by a neuropsychologist. The results were pointedly clear. He did indeed have ADHD, and that was only the beginning of the diagnoses he would collect over the years. 

Cut to two (2) years later after he started the Transition program, we go to look at our first group home. I’m at my wits end with his behaviors at home. He is disruptive, extremely argumentative and just generally a real pain in the ass to live with. Just as any 20 year-old, still living with his parents would be ...except like on steroids!  

He was doing so well at work, having held down a job for well over a year. He was making good progress in his transition program. I thought maybe if he got some distance from me, he could start making more progress towards independence and we could all lead a more peaceful life.

As I looked around this group home, I thought to myself, Is this the right situation for him? Is this what he really needs? 
Moving into a group home certainly was not my dream for my first born son.  I had a lot of fears.

  • How he would adjust to the change and the structure of the group home. 
  • How would he be able to get along with roommates? 
  • I was afraid that he was so unstable emotionally,  that he may end up having a complete breakdown. 

There had to be a better choice. 

I didn’t let on to him how I felt about it. After the tour of the home, I put on the optimistic face. I wanted him to make his own decision. I didn't think I was strong enough to make it myself.  He said yes at first. He even said, "Maybe this is God's plan for me."A few days later he became anxious about all of the change he would have to make. He then adamantly said, "NO! I’m not doing it!" (His favorite initial answer to everything we ask.) 

We went on for several more months of bad to worse behavior at home, while I looked into other much more expensive options. His behavior was screaming "something has got to change!" It was almost as if he was subconsciously begging for us to get it over with already and make him move out. 

I was unraveling, unable to think straight half of the time,  unable to eat the other half of the time. I wasn't sleeping well.  I was on edge, filled with anxiety, always waiting for the next bomb to drop. My heart rate stayed high. I was afraid to even check my blood pressure. I was falling apart. 

My husband was starting to lose it too. He became more and more involved in the day to day care of Red's life.  He tried to give me a break and started taking on more.  He began to see exactly what I had been going through for the past few years.  His own blood pressure climbed. We were both just exhausted. Everyone in the house was miserable. 

Finally, something broke. Behaviors reached a peak. The emotional unrest was beginning to effect our family's health and safety. We were forced to make some tough decisions.  

We started off with some major medication changes.  We started it over the summer and thanks to the imprecise nature of the so called science of psychiatry, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, went wrong. We're talking from behavior that was horrific to the stuff nightmares are made of. 

You know that feeling you get as a mother, something is way off? Follow that instinct! And don’t stop pushing until you get some results.  I kept pushing until he was seen by the right set of eyes. By that I mean, I finally met a psychiatrist that I didn't hate.  I just wish there were more like him in the world. 

Our results ended in a big reduction in meds, along with a huge reduction in his weight. He has completely changed his diet and is now hyper focused on exercise. If you had told me a year ago that he would change to a healthy lifestyle, I would have told you were out of your ever loving mind! The change in him that finally began to take place was nothing short of miraculous. His attitude did a complete 180 degree turn and he began to feel much more optimistic than I have ever seen him. 

I'm talking like night and day changes in his ability and willingness to cooperate. So much so, that it seems to good to be true. It's sad to say that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit this. When you've been living in a war zone that suddenly turns into a resort, you can't help but wonder where the land mines are hiding.  For now, I'm just trying to ride the wave. 

This past week, we started a trial run at a group home. Am I in love with it or even the idea of him being there? No, I am not. I will admit, I am a bit of a snob. I want nothing but the best for my children. Hence they are so freakin spoiled! This is coming from a girl who was raised in government subsidized housing, but our house was spic and span, comfortable and cozy.  We never had a hungry day and we were often the best dressed kids in school. (That is at least until I started buying my own clothes. My mother would say that I dressed like a gypsy. But whatever... I digress.)  

My dream for my son was for him to move out into an apartment or a dormitory. At the very least, a Transitional Living program for adults on the spectrum. I don't know who it is that can afford these astronomically, expensive programs like the ones that I found, but good Lord, they must be very well off to be able to afford costs anywhere from forty to one hundred thousand dollars per year! 

A group home was not a part of the dream, but it is what he needs right now.  We had to do what was best for our family,  even if this isn't what we dreamed of being able to provide for him.  

We are hopeful that this is a springboard for further independence.  I am praying that he will stay motivated to finally get a place of his own or at least with less support someday in the near future. 

We still have a few kinks to work out with the agency that runs the home. I am not all that impressed with the staff so far, but I know my standards are high. I'm sure they aren't used to parents who are involved and knowledgable about what they are supposed to provide. I am not the one to try skimping on.

We have seen him a number of times this week, while we are working out these kinks of transportation and making sure that he has the things that he needs. Another positive, is that the place is very close to us, so we can see him and ensure that his needs are being met.

For now,  it's not the ideal situation but it is so much better than the life we were living just a few weeks ago. I am just trying to enjoy the peace in my home. I can close my door at night and not worry about anyone bursting through it with an immediate need. Blue is  more self-sufficient and he knows when it's time to leave mom alone. I am off duty at 9 p.m. Don't ask me for anything unless you're dying. 

The really good news is that Red is feeling better, physically and mentally. He is optimistic about his future for the first time in years.  It has only been a week so far, but when he comes home to visit, we can actually enjoy his company. 


Now that Red is out of the house ...I'm actually trying to read a real book! I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's, "Big Magic." So far I love it! Click here to check it out: 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Sustainable Life

Early morning,  before the crack of dawn...
I think I hear "Mom!" being screamed from another room.
Afterward, I lay in bed awake —perturbed that my sleep has been interrupted.
My mind starts rambling... 
How am I going to do this?
We can’t go on like this.
This is not a sustainable life. 

I am by definition a nurturer, a fixer, an easer of pain for those I love especially,  my children.  This is who I have become in the past 20 years and probably, some years before that with my siblings and even my parents. Even though they are all older, I have always been the one that they count on to help facilitate communication.
I keep the family together when they start to lose touch with one another.

With my immediate family, my husband, children and my mother, my role is the same —the facilitator, referee, coordinator and problem solver.

But no one can be everything to everyone. 
This is not a sustainable life.

When it comes to my children, intellectually, I know that I am operating out of fear, anxiety and quite frankly, intimidation. 
I know that what I’m doing, is trying to cushion Red's fall. 
I’m trying to silence the explosion.   
The bough is hanging by a thin thread. 
It’s about to break.
This is not a sustainable life.

My husband and I are stressed beyond recognition.
He walked into his doctor's office the other day. She said, "What the hell happened to you?"
We have the same doctor.
I've probably been subconsciously avoiding her for the past few months because I know she will say the same thing to me.  
All of this haunts me. 
This is not a sustainable life.

I've said this before. I know, I’m like the mother bird who wants to push my little fledgling out of the nest. 
“You can fly! I know you can do it!” 
But as soon as he starts plummeting towards the earth, I fly in to scoop him up, never giving him the chance to figure it out for himself.
This is not a sustainable life.

He’s an adult. 
He’s twice my size. 
I literally can not cushion his fall.
He will smash me! 
In an attempt to save him, I will kill myself!
I will disappear. 
As it is, there are only traces of my former self.  
I have allowed one of my children to absorb about sixty to seventy percent of my energy. 
That leaves about thirty to forty percent for everything and everyone else, including myself.  
This is not a sustainable life.

I can not breathe.  
I can not exhale. 
Most days I can feel the vibration of my heart beating, like a bass drum. 
I attempt deep breaths, trying to slow my heart rate. The fix is only momentary.
I’m living in PTSD mode. 
Always preparing for the next explosion.
This is not a sustainable life.

I would like to give photo credit
however, this was sent to me by a friend.
Arthur Unknown
I have to think about the rest of my family. 
I must think of our health and safety.
I keep things moving along mostly on automatic pilot. 
I try to keep my sense of humor.
I attempt to find some semblance of enjoyment in my life.
I color in one of my adult coloring books while feeling a mixture of guilt and self-loathing because I'm not writing.
The truth is most of the time, I can't string two thoughts together, much less a full story.
This is not a sustainable life.
Colored by me!
To Order Your own click the ad below

In quiet moments, the enormity of it all overwhelms me. 
It’s crushing me.
I’m drowning.
I remind myself that I've done everything I know how to do.
I have pulled out every big gun in my arsenal.
I’ve tried.
I’m not a doctor, a pharmacist or a therapist. 
I have played all of these roles in real life, for a long time.
This is not a sustainable life.

He fights everything and everyone who tries to help him.
I realize that his behaviors are mostly based in fear, anxiety and his autistic, different way of thinking. 
That doesn’t change what it’s doing to the rest of us, physically and emotionally.
This is not a sustainable life. 

In a phone call the other day I told him, “It's time for you to change your own life. I can not make it happen for you anymore than I could make you lose weight.
(Recently, he made that decision for himself and he’s lost a considerable amount.)   
I told him, “When you finally decided to do it, YOU made it happen. I have faith that you will be able to do that with the rest of your life.” 

Every experience in life changes who you are. 
I’m going to have to believe that in the end,  all of us will be changed for the better.
All of us will be stronger. 
In the end this will be a long, incredibly painful, success story, with a few cautionary tales weaved in between. 
It is not a story that I can contrive or create like the novelist I once wanted to be. 
This story has to play itself out, one long, excruciating chapter at a time. 
I have to let go and let God write this script.
All this time, I’ve been thinking God needed my help.
He doesn’t.
He’s in charge.
Until this story reaches it's climax, God will sustain me.

Click here to order your own adult coloring book. Here are two of my favorites: