Friday, January 31, 2020

Job Corps is a "No"

At this point in our lives, with one son age 20, and the other age 24, I try not to freak out every time something happens with them.  Every time they call or text me in a panic --which is sometimes at the exact same moment, I  play it cool.

My self-talk is, “Somehow, this will work itself out. Karen, you have been freaking out their whole lives about everything. The truth is, things usually do work way or another.” After the heart attack. 

For months, I have known there are major changes coming down the pipeline for Kendal (my 24-year-old). Kendal is on the autism spectrum. He also has a laundry list of co-morbid diagnoses. He has been living in a townhouse apartment with his older brother Adrian, for nearly 2 years now. He has remained employed the entire time. In fact, he’s worked steadily for the past 5 years. He is happiest when he is busy working.

It turns out that life is taking a different path for Adrian.  He will be relocating in the  Spring. He is going to become a father. (Yes. I will be a grandmother. I have all kinds of mixed emotions about that.) I’ve raised three children.  I am very much aware of how much it changes your life. Having a baby will be the biggest joy, the greatest love, and the most difficult thing he will ever do in his life.

Once the baby arrives, Adrian will not have the time to dedicate to taking care of his brother, nor should he have to. He has been helping Kendal out with transportation, managing his finances, personal hygiene, and self-care. He has been a constant sounding board and top advisor. Adrian will need to focus on his new baby son and the family that he will be building. He has been incredibly patient with Kendal --helping him take many steps towards manhood and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Instead of freaking out and going into helicopter-fix-it-mom, I thought I would sit back and see what plans Kendal would come up with on his own. At first, he said he was determined to stay in San Antonio, which I thought was awesome! He started working with a Life-Skills Coach through his employer (Goodwill) to help him figure out what's next --looking at housing options and better-paying positions.

When I didn’t see much progress, I suggested that maybe he look into Gary Job Corps in San Marcos, Texas. It’s located just between here and San Antonio. Job Corps is a free structured, living and training, government program to help young people develop skills for a career. Kendal has been talking in circles about possibly going into a trade for the past two years in between his delusional get-rich-quick-and-easy, entrepreneurial solutions.

Kendal was excited when he checked out the Job Corps website. Still excited after starting the application process and talking to the recruiter. It was great! Until it wasn’t. That freakin’ anxiety crept up and took over.

I woke up one morning to the message, “Job Corps” has bad reviews. He also sent a link with some horror stories about things that have happened at the San Marcos location. Stories of drugs, violence, filthy accommodations, terrible food, horrible, health and safety concerns, uncaring staff. Mixed in, there were a few stories of success. Of course, Kendal’s anxiety is drawn to the worst, possible case scenarios.

“I’m not going to Job Corps.” was the follow-up text.

Well, there goes my simple solution to just nudge him in the right direction and let him figure it out for himself. 

Since then, there have been weeks of extremely high anxiety (mostly him). I’m playing the role of the cool, namaste, mom --acting as if I have no stake in this game.

“It’s your life. You’re an adult. Whatever happens next is your choice. After all, the Job Corps only wants people who really want to change their lives. Not people whose mamas want them to change their lives.”

Most of his alternative solutions have no realistic workable plan. They are mostly a non-plan, where he’s going to become an entrepreneur with no money to invest in himself or a business, with no formal training or additional education. Somehow, that’s going to miraculously work out to him being able to live on his own and pay his own way through life.

Back to my mantra, ”Somehow this will work itself out.”

There are moments when I absolutely buy into my mantra. Where I’m all self-care, yoga, meditation, inner peace, namaste, and the law of attraction

In between those moments I am freaking the hell out while trying to pretend that I’m not.
-I can not do this again!
-I don’t even know where to start looking for resources. (It’s like I’m new here.)
-He will not cooperate with me.
-He is oppositional and works against me. It’s mostly the same with his father.
-I am just not the one-size-fits-all solution anymore!
-We need a resource and a workable solution, as in --yesterday.

Does one ever finish raising an autistic adult?

I's tired. So tired. (In my Shug from 'The Color Purple" voice.)

The other day he texts me. I could actually write a whole book about our daily text conversations. He texts me whenever a new thought runs through his mind. (Insert eye-roll here.) It would be un-freakin-believable.

“Why do older women seem to be attracted to me more than younger women?”
 My answer? “I don’t know, but can you ask one of them if she wants my job?”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Guardian of Peace

You think I’m changing?
You’re right.
I am changing
Shouldn’t I be?
Should you be?
I feel sorry for people who exclaim things like, “I will never change! I am who I am.”
If you’re not changing you’re not growing.
Personally, I hope to never stop growing.
I will never stop seeking knowledge and doing the work on myself; looking at myself critically; forgiving myself for not being perfect; trying to have balance in my life.

I’ve been working on myself for a few years. You know...after forgetting to work on me while raising our very high maintenance children. Raising three children (two who are autistic) is pretty much all-encompassing. Self-love and care are now a top priority for me.

Maintaining a 25-year marriage isn't a walk in the park either. I still find it amazing that we made it with no one being harmed physically in the process.

I saw to it that our children received all kinds of therapy during those years. Therapy for them was like another career for me. Ascertaining therapies, researching medications, putting together educational accommodations and plans to make sure their needs were met.

When they were teenagers, taking care of their mental health and basically, trying to keep them alive was a huge part of my invisible job.

Now, the work I am doing on myself is starting to pay off.
Remember when I was depressed and anxious all of the time?
I was walking around here, tired, angry and resentful, feeling very much unappreciated.

I was overwhelmed and hopeless.

Talk about being trapped? Trapped is an accurate description for feeling like there is no way out. It felt like there was no way out of all of the responsibility for my children. They became teenagers and then young adults who still have needs. Added to that was the responsibility of caring for my mother whose needs seemed to grow with time.

My psychiatrist and therapist called what I have "Caregiver Burnout." It’s really a thing. It’s a thing that happens when you ignore your own needs in order to take care of other people. When you’re trying your best to make other unhappy people, happy. It feels like an impossible job because it is. What made me think I could make them happy?

When it’s your children who are suffering from depression and anxiety, a mother will give anything for them to have an ounce of happiness.
I admit that I got totally caught up in this work.
I had no balance.
I was all in...over my head.

That's okay. Thankfully, I lived to forgive myself.

You know how it is when you’ve been working on a job for too many years. You’re not getting any raises or bonuses for a job well done. You don’t receive any recognition. You find your self working all of the time. You can’t catch a break.

Imagine that you actually live and work at home with your employers. Every time they see your face they ask you to do something for them. You have your “to-do” list all set in your head and someone else is literally adding things to your list continually.

These people you work for constantly attempt to make you feel responsible for everything that goes wrong, including how they are feeling. They behave as if you are their savior only without the glory. While you’re trying to save them, they are actually sabotaging themselves. You are losing yourself. Rinse and repeat for years and years.

After a while, you might want to run --to bolt the hell out of there without looking back; no forwarding address.

I have not been able to quit this job. There is no total escape.  What I have done though is to create boundaries between myself and my little non-paying, energy-sucking, employers.
I’m doing my best to maintain these boundaries, which actually takes a great deal of energy within itself.

I have created this little world for myself with pockets of peace. I put some space in-between me and my mother. We are both better for it.

Sometimes, this new world means spending time alone, in quiet solitude, writing, doing yoga, eating sushi and drinking wine. It may even mean occasionally traveling by myself, creating the ultimate boundary.

One of the other things that my therapist says that I have is P.T.S.D. from all of the years of stress and explosions that went off in our house. The loud fights, the constant noise, the aggressiveness, the threats of self-harm, the calls from school, the calls to 911, the mental health hospitalizations. Not to mention playing referee between all of the males in this house, in hopes to keep more explosions at bay.

Who in their right mind would want to keep living and working in an environment like this?

I survived it all. I still constantly push away feelings of sadness and fear for these children of mine, who are now grown, men. They are still behind in their development.  I ache for the dreams I still have for them. I just want them to have the fundamental things --love, basic happiness, comfort, friends, purpose, independence.  I can not provide any of these things for them. At this point, it's difficult to guide them. I can only try to connect them to the resources and tools that they need. They have to drive their lives forward.

I’m not depressed anymore.
Am I cured?
Am I where I want to be in this growth cycle?

I will, however, keep working to maintain peace and boundaries in my life. Eventually, I will create a world in which I can be happy more than I am sad. I will not allow others to dictate my moods and control my energy.  I will protect myself from things I don’t want, and procure more of the things I do.

I had almost completely given myself away.
I’m back.
Not only am I back. I am new.
I am determined.
I am the guardian of my peace and happiness.
I will work like a mother f*#%er to protect it.