Sometimes Raising a Teen is Hard. And That’s Okay.

Lately, I’ve not really known quite what to write about. And truth be told I haven’t really had the the get-up-and-go to even care. I’m struck with several thoughts right now, how my girl has been handling her depression, and how we have both been handling the rocky teenage years with Depression, Nightmare Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD.

(forgive me, I already know I’m going to ramble on this one…)

Summer definitely has been flying by. A- was busy with Vacation Bible School prep and then actual VBS. After that she left for a few days for a church retreat. There has been youth group activities in between, and coming up she has  two concerts, turns SIXTEEN, and then it’s off for another church retreat. Plus she has hustle to get all her summer work finished before school starts again in August!

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving how busy she has been. I’m not going to lie even a little bit. The last few months have been hard. Depression and PTSD are nasty little life-stealers. (I can make up words if I want to!)

I love that she feels safe at church with her youth group family. I love that she has become so involved. Sometimes I don’t know how she does it. I mean, sometimes she doesn’t.

Some days she does refuse to get out of bed or shower or brush her teeth.  Some days the tears flow freely, some days there is nothing but a dull, vacant look behind her glazed eyes. Sometimes she spends days on the couch wrapped up in a blanket watching cartoons and isolating. Some weeks she doesn’t get to youth group because she’s had a bad day and is scared of having a panic attack while she’s there. Sometimes she goes anyway and learns that going and DOING can get her out of the darkness, even if just for a little while. Most days when she has to go out and after spending several hours pretending to be “fine” she comes home to crash, curling up in bed and wanting nothing but to sleep.

This is the first time she was able to go on one of the longer, farther away from home church trips; one of those phone left behind, completely unplugged trips. She was too afraid. But this year she wanted to go. The depression has been wrapped around her for about seven months with no relief. PTSD symptoms were rough, but she told me she wanted, no needed, to go on this retreat. And she did.

Four days in a camp near a river; tubing, white water rafting, paintball, and other team-building exercises with her youth group. Nightly prayer services and meditations, talks, and talent shows. She had a blast. And what do you know? She was able to manage the entire trip without having to ask her youth leader to let her call me. She did it. I think she came home feeling pretty accomplished.

They were starting a Peer Helper group at her school. Now if anyone actually knows A- they know she was MADE for that sort of thing. Seriously. Even before they started the program the school counselor had talked to her about it and how good she would be at it. She filled out her application before the end of the school year, did her interview and felt pretty sure the teachers in charge of the program thought she would be a good fit. The other day she received her letter. Now, A- never expects anything. She never assumes she is going to get anything she tries for. But she had been talked to so much about the program that I don’t think it entered her head that she would not be part of it. After all, she is already the kid the other kids go to when they have a problem. She already knows she wants to work in some way with troubled teens. Past experiences have given her a lot to draw from. Yet when she opened that envelope she was shocked to see that her application had been denied. She didn’t understand. I told her that more than likely it was because she had missed a lot of classes last school year. And attendance was one of the things on the list of requirements. The counselor had said she would answer any questions of A’s attendance last year – as she missed very few DAYS of school, just many classes, due to circumstances beyond our control (mental and mood disorder stuff – no need for details) But still, she did not get in. She was devastated.

She had also submitted an application for a new program at church within the youth group. A handful of youth were being selected for a discipleship program. A- thoughtfully worked on her application for several days before submitting it, and then waited to hear when she would have her interview. A few weeks went by and youth leaders never mentioned anything.

She was beginning to be afraid she had been told her interview day and time and in her ADHD-ness (Again, I can make up words when I want to!) had forgotten. She kept telling me she wouldn’t get in anyway, that there were so many kids in youth group, that she would definitely be looked over in favor of other candidates.

A few days after receiving her letter about the Peer Helper program, she got a text from her youth leader, adding her to a group.

The discipleship group.

A- jumped up and screamed, then she sat back down. (she actually almost threw her back out, which is kind of funny. Not really, but seriously?) She grinned, then she frowned. She knew she had never had an interview, so there was a mistake. She messaged her youth leader privately and asked if there was a mistake in adding her to the group, that she hadn’t had an interview, how could she be in the group?

The text she received back is one I will never forget, because it did more to let my girl know that sometimes, just sometimes, people ARE paying attention and see you for who you are. The leader texted her back and said, “My dear, of course you made it. There was never any hesitation about you. You are awesome.” It helped my girl see that she has worth. That she has something to offer. It’s too easy for her to forget that.

After a couple days I told her you know, God had a plan all along. Maybe God knows that there is something she will be needed for in the church program and that she would not have had time to be in both the church program as well as the Peer Helper program at school. He put her where He wanted her to be.

After the retreat and after getting her place in the church program, I see her slowly coming around again. Her eyes are more clear and the smile is genuine. It’s like a burden is being lifted again.

I know after seven long months it is time for some relief, that events in themselves do not lift depression, but having things to look forward to, having things in your life that are meaningful, those things DO help.

The thing is, in the midst of the depression, PTSD, and Anxiety, in the sleepless nights and the getting older, some days I feel like I am losing my girl. We’ve always been so close. Probably too close, but that’s just how it is. Through the mental and mood disorders, she has made some bad choices, even though I know how good her heart is. But times have been rough and we have been on edge. Things just haven’t been as easy and effortless as they have always been. I know I have to let go a little, but it’s so hard to do. She knows she can’t always do what she wants, but she doesn’t always understand my reasoning either.

We’ve argued and bickered, disagreed and gotten angry. We both hate it. It feels like the end of the world.

July 4 was a particularly bad day. We had a massive argument, she cried and accused me of hating her best friend (which she was about to leave with so….) and then she was gone in a huff, and I was home in a huff. Maybe an hour after leaving she texted me and apologized. I apologized too. She came home early and I tried talking to her, but it seems most days everything I say is the wrong thing. Okay, now a lot of times it IS the wrong thing, because in MY ADHD-ness I blurt things out and I don’t always choose the correct words. I’ll own that. So she went to bed sad, I went to bed sad, and neither one of us slept.

The next morning I got up determined to fix it. She was sitting on the couch watching cartoons and eating cereal. After exchanged good mornings I somehow stepped in it again and said the wrong thing. She said, (partly kidding) “Well I WAS in a good mood when I got up.” So I’m standing there trying to talk to her and she doesn’t want to listen and then, suddenly, because she is who she is, she starts drumming on my boobs with her spoon. Only my child can end an argument in such a unique fashion. 😉

So I leave for work and leave her at home because she has a therapy appointment. Later I asked her if she made a return appointment and she said, “Yes, but you have to come.” Okay. I mean, that’s not that unusual. We have a deal where she goes in by herself unless she asks me to go in with her.

So that night I am determined that we have to get past this cloud of huffiness that has settled over our heads. I venture, “How was your appointment today? Are you okay?” This is a legitimate question because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be HARD. She said, yeah, it was good. Then she said, “We talked about feelings, and faith, and goals.”

I smile at her and say, “Feelings, huh? Like wanting to strangle your mother kind of feelings?” She grinned back and said, “Why do you think she wants to talk to us both next time?”  I say, “You know, as bad as it might seem sometimes, just because we’ve always been so close, you know most of this is normal teenage stuff, right? It sucks being a teenager and it isn’t any easier being the mom of a teenager. I’m as lost as you are.” She said, “Yeah, that’s what (the counselor) said. She said it’s mostly growing pains.” I agreed. Then she said, “I told her that it was mostly my fault. I told her that I’m stubborn and don’t want to listen. I told her that I’ve given you reason to doubt me and that’s why you’ve been so hard on me lately. But she also said that you have a problem with fear. Fear that something bad is going to happen to me, or that I’m going to make some life altering horrible mistake. She said we both need to work on those things. Together.”

I agreed. And we will. But we talked. For a long time. I even told her why I was so afraid. She told me it made sense and she understood it, just sometimes she needed me to let go of it just a bit. And I know she does. She doesn’t want her “mental and mood disorders” to be the focus that I, or anyone else sees, when they look at her. She doesn’t want what she can and can’t do depend on those “mental and mood disorders.” She just wants to feel normal. And I get that.

She promised to not be such a pain in the ass. I promised to work very, very hard on letting go of my fear. We both promised to talk to one another. I reminded her that I WAS going to say the wrong thing sometimes. She reminded me that she was going to do the same.

Parenting a teen is hard. Parenting a teen with mental and mood disorders can be overwhelming and exhausting. And no day is all good or all bad. Even on the bad days there are those funny, unique, off the wall jokes we share. Even when we’ve argued and been angry, we still have laughed. Kids grow up too fast, like a race car whizzing by and flying off the track. There is no one answer on how it’s supposed to be done. There is no one size fits all way of doing it. There is no way that even the BEST mom-daughter teams aren’t going to have their moments. When you live with someone they are going to annoy you sometimes, that’s just the way it is. And, as humans, we are going to make dumb mistakes. And it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.

Nothing changes the love that is there, the friendship, the bond, the feeling of completeness that you have with your child. Nothing is better than the shared inside jokes, the cuddles that your nearly sixteen year old still gives you, and the warmest hugs you’ll ever receive.

What Having a Teen Daughter is Teaching me About Sexual Harassment

I know that this is a pretty volatile subject, but I feel I have to address the topic of sexual harassment.

I’m going to admit something. I’m not going to say it’s right or wrong, but it’s just how I always felt. I always looked at harassment from the point of view of while none of it was okay, some things were worse than others.

Obviously, some situations and events ARE worse than others. Some things are serious and should be taken as such. Assault, violence, stalking….those things are serious business and should not be ignored.

But there’s the point I’m going into with this…should ANY harassment be ignored?

Here’s the thing. We’ve all been sexually harassed in some way at some point in our lives, right? Men and women, we’ve all been victims of harassment at one time or another.

And do you know what? While it wasn’t okay, as I said before, I always looked at it as no big deal either. It was just something that, as a woman, I knew I’d have to deal with from time to time. Aside from something BAD happening, you just shrug it off and go on about your day.

But when do we stand up and say that’s a problem? When do we realize that by shrugging it off as just one of those things we are enabling the degeneration of society?

When do we start demanding as women AND men to be treated with more respect?

So my daughter is a curvy girl. A lot of people think she is older than she is and she has been getting looks and even cat-called for at least two years. (Yeah, I think I was in shock for days the first time some man cat-called my thirteen year old.)

One day she was walking in town and some boys whistled and called to her as they drove past. As they passed her though, they realized that they knew her. From church. The boys felt bad and pulled to a stop and got out and apologized to her. She accepted their apology but while they were embarrassed because they realized she was someone they knew, she asked them would they have not been embarrassed by their behavior if it had been some random girl that they would never see again? They had to admit that they probably never would have given it another thought had that been the case. They were properly repentant and I think they skipped youth group for a couple weeks just to avoid her. When she told me about it, though, I remember just shaking my head and saying something like, “Dumb boys.”

While fifteen and sixteen year old boys are one thing, sometimes it’s adults too. She has been whistled at plenty by grown men. Gross. (And for the ones of you that are about to ask “What in the world is she wearing??” First of all, one’s clothing has no bearing on the fact that no one deserves to be harassed – and second of all, she is usually wearing a band t shirt, jeans and black Converse high tops. Nothing provocative in any way, and nothing that tries to make her look older than she is.)

One day very recently we stopped at a gas station and she was going to run in and get a drink. We were coming from church and she had on a dress. Going in she passed a man coming out. As they approached one another along the sidewalk, I could see him looking her up and down. She passed him and he turned around to ogle her. This man was sixty if he was a day. I rolled down my car window and said, “Excuse me but did you lose something? Is there a problem?” He put his head down and scurried away. Now I’m sorry, but she might look a little older than her fifteen years, but you can’t tell me a GROWN man doesn’t know when he is looking at a CHILD.

Again, are these things that are just bound to happen? Is it acceptable? Is it okay?

She came home from school the other day with a story. She told me that one of her friends had been making inappropriate comments to her. Since he was a friend, she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because he didn’t mean anything by it, but it was making her uncomfortable and she had asked him to stop but he didn’t. Now she had not told me or her school counselor that this was going on, because she didn’t want to make an issue out of nothing and get him in trouble.

However, he made a comment at lunch and she was vastly uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do about it. The boy walked away, but one of her other friends who had seen this happen, and knew that she had told the boy to stop, grabbed her by the hand, yanked her up and told her to “Come on.” She asked him where they were going and he said, “We are going to talk about this with someone.” He took her to his advisor and proceeded to rant about boys having zero respect for girls and how this boy had been harassing her and she’d asked him to stop. Her friend declared he was shocked, appalled, disenchanted with humanity, embarrassed by his gender, and fed up. He was so upset he didn’t even let A speak for herself. When she started to giggle at his zeal (just because she was embarrassed) he hotly inquired as to whether she thought it was funny. She assured him that the situation was definitely not funny, and yes, she had been made to feel uncomfortable and she wanted it to stop.

The teacher was upset and promised to take care of the situation, which he did.

A’s friend got me thinking though. No form of harassment is okay. As a teenage boy he saw the problem in something that I, as an adult woman, had been ignoring.

No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable in your own body. No one has the right to make unwanted sexual comments or advances of any kind. And when it happens, it is our right to stand up for ourselves and demand that it stop. We have the right to demand to be treated with respect.

It’s not too much to ask, and it certainly isn’t too much to expect.

I don’t want my daughter to think these things are “normal” and something that she just has to put up with because she’s female. Enough is enough.

I’m glad she has a friend who was willing to not only stand up for her, but to go against the grain of “normal teen boy” to declare the actions of his classmate unacceptable. His mother should be very proud of the young man she is raising. His actions speak volumes to me. I hope they speak volumes to his peers also.

Respect. Dignity. Morality. These aren’t things we should just wish for and be surprised when we see them. We should demand them.

My Child the Rebel

My daughter is a rebel. And I am so very grateful that she is.

Just for the record, I did NOT say rebellious. I said rebel. And there is a difference.

I’m a rule follower. There, I said it. I believe rules are in place for a reason and I have no problem following them. Maybe I like guidelines. Maybe I just don’t like to make waves. When others question a rule, I run through in my head all the scenarios that must have taken place for the rule to have been made. I figure there is a good reason for it. I believe if we wish to change rules then there is a proper way to bring about change.

I’m a stay on the sidewalk kind of gal, what can I say? (Did you just call me boring? I heard that!)

So A came home today with a gift for me. She’d made it during art club. It’s the cutest little soap dish you ever did see. 😉 She loves to draw and she loves to paint, but she doesn’t work with much else. I think it turned out quite nicely.

But here’s the thing; the dish is in the shape of a leaf, but the artist told them to not try to make cut outs on the edges because she didn’t think they would be able to do so in the limited time she had to teach them.

So you guessed it – Instead of leaving the sides of her leaf smooth, A cut it out.

She was really proud of her work, and hey, it was waaay better than anything I’d ever done. There is STILL a family joke about a cat I made out of clay in second grade. Well, it was supposed to be a cat, but if it was that thing needed an exorcism. My mom still has it and it’s probably why she’s plagued with nightmares.

This simple little leaf got me to thinking though. My daughter, while she respects authority and is always polite and well mannered, she is not a rule follower.

She sees them as personal challenges I believe. Okay, I’m not talking about life or death rules here. But still.

I would never have done the opposite of what the visiting artist said to do. It wasn’t something of utmost importance, she just didn’t feel they would be able to do it. My daughter had to defy that logic and show that she could.

When I questioned her about it she said, “You know, I never learn things from the beginning like other people do. I start in the middle and work outwards. I make a lot of mistakes that way but I learn on my own terms. I learn my way. I set a bar for myself and I can’t go under it. I have to go above it.”

It’s true. When she was a very little girl and wanted to learn to draw so badly, I went and got all kinds of books on learning to draw. She flipped through them, looked at the pictures and set about trying to copy the finished product instead of going through the steps. I would try to tell her, “Look, go back, try to do it this way.” She would get so irritated at me. She would get irritated at herself too, for not being able to produce a perfect drawing, but she just could NOT learn to do it the “regular” way.

That could have something to do with the ADHD too. I think a lot of us can’t learn things the way we are “supposed to.”

 

Hey, the kid can draw now, so it doesn’t really matter does it?

I thought about all the times in my life I’ve had questions. I never asked them. I thought about all the times I wanted to do the opposite of what I was told to do. I didn’t. I thought about the conversations I wished I’d had, the rules I wish I’d challenged, the arguments even, that I wish I’d fought.

A does not shy away from questioning. She respects authority, but if she wants to know the why of something she asks. Sometimes she isn’t given an answer, but she is never afraid to speak up or out. I admire that. I’ve always told her that as long as she is respectful, the world wasn’t made by the people like me who just stand quietly on the sidewalk. (I know this has changed a lot as I’ve gotten older, I still don’t like confrontation, but I’m a lot less afraid now than I was back then.)

She fights for causes she believes in. She brings discussion into her classrooms. She doesn’t follow wherever the masses are going. I didn’t follow the masses when I was a teen, but I pretty much sat on the sidelines.

A will never sit quietly on the sidelines. She has too much to do, too much to say, and too much that she wants to know. And she is waaay too loud for that anyway.

I’m proud of her for the fearlessness she shows in so many areas. She is such a contradiction. I had someone tell me the other day that she just amazed them, that she was so confident in herself and so comfortable with who she was and how she accepted herself. I thanked them, but I almost sucked my drink up my nose.

A? Confident? A is high functioning. She is far from confident. She has zero self esteem and she thinks she is bad at everything. So how can this kid be fearless? I often don’t understand it myself. But she shows up. Every day. She puts herself out there. Every damned day. She figures she has nothing to lose. I guess she’s right.

I’m lucky that she has the chance to attend a school where her teachers appreciate her personality. They push her to be herself and to actively participate. They welcome her discussions and her questions. They even welcome the sarcastic sparring matches. (most of them do anyway)

For all the times I’ve shaken my head and muttered, “Can’t you just for once follow the rules without questioning?” I’m glad she didn’t. For all the times I told her what I wanted her to do, told her what my advice was, knowing full well she was going to do her own thing anyway, I’m glad she does.

I’d rather raise an independent thinker who can chase her life’s goals than someone afraid to speak up for herself.

Her school is starting a debate team next year. Heaven help them.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Crazy.

I want to take a minute to say a few words about a word that I have come to despise.

Crazy.

Oh sure, we use it all the time:  My little sister drives me crazy. I swear, I think my boss must be crazy! If the kids don’t stop arguing I’m going to go crazy! What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?
You get the idea.

Truth is, I never gave it much thought. It’s just one of those words – a catch all kind of word.

And then one day something happened that changed everything. My beautiful girl was having an incredibly hard time with the depression. She’d passed the point of crying and moved into the point of nothingness. The place where nothing seems to matter. It’s a place where at one time she would have resorted to self harming just to feel something – to convince herself that she still could.

The PTSD symptoms were strong and she felt like she was beyond hope or help. She looked at me with eyes that had given up and she said, “Mom, just face it. I’m crazy. I know it. Everyone knows it. You need to admit it.”

She was scared. She did, after all, hear voices in her head. She did, after all, harm herself. She did, after all, live in that dark void where feeling melted away and was replaced with emptiness. She did, after all, think that she would be better off dead.

She feared that if she were honest about all her symptoms and all the things that were going on inside of her head that she would be deemed “crazy.” She was sure of it.

She was terrified the doctor would have her locked up, away from me, key thrown away because there was nothing that could be done to “fix” her. She had decided that others who had often told her, among other harmful things, that there was something “wrong” with her, that she was mental, she was crazy, she was schizophrenic, she was insane – that they were right.

First, I assured her that sharing her symptoms would never cause her to be taken away and put in a hospital for life. She would never be rid of me, and I most definitely was not giving up on her, or abandoning her.

Then I explained to her that there are all kinds of mental illnesses in the world. She already knew this. She is a smart girl. But why is it so hard to know things, yet believe, when it comes to yourself, something different?

Depression is a mental illness. Would she EVER tell someone who had depression that they were crazy? Of course not. Anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, Self Harm, Panic Disorder – all mental or mood disorders.
A person might have a diagnosis of a mental illness, maybe even more than one – but that wasn’t crazy. Why? Because there was no such thing! There is such a thing as having an illness but not such a thing as just being given the catch all diagnosis of crazy.

This has become a dirty word in my book. A word that carries such negative connotations. Think about movies you have seen where insane asylums are used to invoke fear in the movie watcher. We see someone with behaviors we don’t understand and we whisper about them behind their back; that they’re crazy.

What does that even mean? What are we saying about them? We aren’t using the term in any productive fashion.

Crazy. The word perpetuates stigma. It separates those with mental illnesses from the rest of society. It singles people out. It creates the thought that these people are less, that they are somehow broken beyond repair, and that the world has given up on them.

I for one, refuse to be a part of that.
Maybe I’m being hypersensitive about the subject. That’s possible.

But I hate to see a girl with so much to give to the world, with so much potential, with so many hopes and dreams, assuming that she can’t reach her dreams because she is less. Because she isn’t normal. Having depression doesn’t make her crazy. Being suicidal doesn’t make her crazy. Living with PTSD doesn’t make her crazy.

Because Crazy doesn’t exist. Crazy is a label. I don’t like labels.

Labels are words like “Crazy” “Dumb” “Lazy” “Worthless” “Weird” “Freak”
They are vastly different from words that give a diagnosis like “ADHD” “Depression” “Anxiety” “Bipolar Disorder” “Schizophrenia”
Labels are about hate and being misunderstood. Diagnoses are about understanding, treating, and helping.

Let’s all be helpers.

Two A.M. Post Christmas Ramblings

So, it’s two in the morning as I start to write this. Christmas Day is a memory now along with Christmas Eve.

All in all, we can mark this holiday as a success, and that’s a pretty good feeling to have right now. I was just a little worried about how it all would go.

We celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. With just my mother, my siblings, their children and their children, there were about thirty of us present. Cram that many people into the small room where my mom puts up her Christmas tree, and you can very well have a recipe for disaster for my teen with ADHD and PTSD. The noise and overflow of people could have a definite negative impact causing an episode of epic proportions to occur.

I talked to A beforehand, told her that if she started to get overwhelmed to go take a break. Walk outside, get out of the noise and the crowd.

She said she would, but I wasn’t so sure how quickly she could become overwhelmed, or how fast an episode could catch her unaware. She spent the entire day before we went to my mom’s fretting over what would happen if she had a bad episode in front of people. I was afraid the increased anxiety over the “what if” would cause it to happen. So I watched her like some creepy stalker, looking for tell tale signs that she was in distress.

I have to say she handled the evening probably better than I did. The noise level was extremely overwhelming.

She hung in there to the end though, and as I stayed behind to tidy up my mom’s kitchen as the last person finally left, A is standing there when she drops to the floor, curls herself into a ball and declares that she is glad it’s all over. She said it was awesome to see cousins she hadn’t seen in a long time and she was happy she got to play with the younger ones and catch up with the older ones, but she was at the end of her tolerance level for the night. She made it through though, she could be proud of that.

I knew Christmas Day would run the risk of being heavy with episodes, and although my sister kindly asked us to Christmas dinner at her home, I declined, thinking A would be better off staying home and quiet today.

It’s a decision that I believe paid off.

We got up this morning and opened gifts, then A- took a nap. When she got up we curled on the couch and started watching Christmas movies. You know, those cheesy, awful, wonderful movies about holiday romances, scrooges, non believers, and the joy of the season. It was her idea to spend the day watching them and watch we did. I think we got through six before she called it quits to go to bed at one this morning. Or was it seven? I lost count.

I do know that sitting quietly, even while we rotted our brain with television, ate Christmas cookies and homemade cheeseburger soup, was one of the best Christmases we have ever spent. There were no episodes today, and while I know things are never quiet inside my child’s head, she was content.

Tomorrow we will do more of the same. We will spend a quiet day at home watching more movies if she wants, reading, or drawing. I am hoping that two days of quiet and rest following the overstimulating party that was Christmas Eve will be enough to help her transition.

She has a week off from school before going back, and I do hope she can enjoy her break.

She wouldn’t tell me anything she wanted for Christmas this year but I think I did pretty well in choosing some things she would like. I was happy to see her enjoying herself as she unwrapped her gifts. I think I get more excited than she does.

And what did she do?

She went with me last week when I got my hair cut. She was talking to our stylist about how I never took time for myself. I was sitting in the chair listening to my daughter telling me that I needed to do nice things for myself sometimes, and how I needed to take time to do things that made me feel nice, and I wondered where in the world I was going to find time for those things. I spend my time caring for her, and while I know the importance of self care, sometimes the reality is different than the fantasy.

So this morning my daughter had some gifts for me. There were a few different types of face masks, some lovely, absolutely amazing scented nourishing soaps, lotions, lip balm, a beautiful new journal in purple along with a pen, and a bottle of my favorite perfume that I haven’t had in years because I certainly would never buy it for myself. She also bought me a gorgeous glass Turkish decorative bowl that I had admired in a store while we were doing some Christmas shopping. When I tried to complain telling her I didn’t want her spending money on me, she just shook her head at me. She did tell me that well, when she bought the bath and body items her aunt helped her, and when she called her grandmother to ask her to take her to the store to get the perfume there was “no way” her Grandmother was going to let her pay for that by herself, but the bowl? Well, it was on CLEARANCE, so I couldn’t be mad about her spending her money on THAT, now could I? I know, I know, she wanted to do those things and I know how blessed I am, but my Mom guilt has no bounds, she should save her money for other things. Still, it made her happy, so it made me happy too.

Point taken kiddo. I will do my best.

So as we wrap up another Christmas and move into a new year, I’m grateful at how well the holiday went. I’m looking forward to spending another quiet day at home with my girl before I go back to work on Wednesday, as well as back to work on a couple articles I have due.

Sometimes, the holidays can be magical after all.

It’s now the day after Christmas and I let A- sleep in pretty late. When she got up she wanted to put in another Christmas movie, so that we did. She’s having a bit harder time today but I kind of expected she might.

Things have been a bit louder in her head and she is having a harder time coping. A nightmare right before she woke up this morning and some flashbacks have dampened her spirits. There has been no major episode and hopefully there won’t be, but we handle them as they come.

She went in her room to listen to music, and says she wants to watch another movie in a bit.

Even with the hard times, it has been a beautiful holiday and I am so very grateful for all that I have. Above all, I am grateful that A- chooses not to give up, that she chooses to fight for her happiness every single day. That’s no easy task.

I look forward to the coming year. I look forward to another chance to do things better than the year before, to learn from my mistakes and live with gratefulness.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

 

 

 

Holidays and ADHD

The holiday season is upon us once again, no matter if we’re ready or not. In our family we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, and A and I usually do something nice and quiet at home on New Year’s Eve. But oh, the sheer chaos of the month can be a bit overwhelming.

Thanksgiving was relatively easy this year. We gathered at my mom’s instead of my house and I was only responsible for about four dishes. I enjoyed the day with my family, but my anxiety can hit a high level, even among people I love. What’s up with that? I call it holiday overwhelm.

I find myself, after the fact, looking back on the day and wondering, “Why did I say that?” “I hope they didn’t think I meant…” “I was so loud!” I have all these swirling thoughts and I try to remind myself that I’m talking about my family here, they love me quirks and all…right??

And after Thanksgiving it’s all just a mad whirlwind. Clean the house to put up the tree. Shopping. A has finals coming up so it’s study study study. More shopping, trying to figure out just what A would even REALLY want for Christmas. Holiday Baking. Christmas programs. This is added to our already full schedule with school, homework, doctor’s appointments, counseling appointments, getting A to the gym, working, and if I’m lucky finding a bit of writing time.

Now, the thing is, I love the holidays. I love the sparkly lights, the decorations, and the baking. I enjoy it. I also try to slow down the month as much as I can and really enjoy the season and taking time to be grateful and think about my blessings. It’s just very hard to slow it all down. Is it even possible to do so??

With my ADHD it’s difficult for me to prioritize. I am keenly aware of that during this time of year. With extra things to do on top of our normal schedule, sometimes it’s really hard for me to keep up with it and not get terribly overwhelmed.

I hope to make A’s holiday special though, so I can’t afford to go into shut down mode. She loves the holidays and I want her to have good memories. I don’t want to add to her stress by letting her know I’m stressed.

Funny thing is, if holidays just add stress, I could choose to skip the baking, the decorating and all that jazz…but I LIKE it. I can’t skip it! I am my own walking contradiction.

I don’t think I’d have holiday stress if I didn’t have ADHD. My “problem” comes from my lack of organization for being able to prioritize tasks as they need to be completed. I wait for the last minute to do anything and then I’m rushing around like a mad woman. I get angry at myself for procrastinating and well…you know the rest.

Is there a solution to all of this? I use lists. I use a whiteboard in the kitchen. I use a calendar. I use alarms and reminders on my phone. Even those things don’t always take away the procrastination though, so there I am, still rushing around when I don’t have to be. Oh well.

It’s important to me to do all the holiday fun things for A. She battles the PTSD and Depression so damned hard that I like to do things that I know give her joy. I like to see the smile on her face as she watches the Christmas lights twinkle and I like to share laughs as we bake cookies together. I also enjoy watching her open gifts on Christmas morning and see her excitement as she unwraps the treasures I found for her.

Little things, I suppose, but I like to think that these things become part of the good memories that she will carry with her. I don’t want her to remember only the dark parts of her childhood.

We’ve already been watching cheesy Christmas movies. Another thing we like to do. With her depression high at the moment, she likes to cuddle up on the couch in the evenings and watch something together. And everything I have to do? It can wait. And I will try my best to not get overwhelmed when things aren’t very clean, or I have too much left on my to-do list. At the end of the day the things that matter most aren’t on that list. My daughter. She’s what matters. Her health. Our memories. Being there when she needs me. That’s what’s important.

So when the holidays come and my ADHD has me feeling like I’m spinning in circles going nowhere fast, I try to remember why I do the things I do. I try to remember what’s truly important.

Does it matter if I didn’t dust the cat hair from the windowsill before I put lights in the window? Not really. Do I have to clean the baseboards before I put up the tree? Nah. Will anyone know if I take the stuff off the dining room table and just shove it all into a cabinet because I’m not sure what to do with it in the first place? Probably not. Unless it was something that belonged to them, of course. Will anyone know that I chose to make the “easiest” cookies I could instead of making beautiful frosted creations like you see on the cover of a magazine? Nope. Does it matter to anyone else if I let the dishes sit overnight because I chose to sit down and watch a dumb Christmas movie with my daughter and then she needed me to stay in her room so she could sleep? I doubt it. They will be there for me to finish in the morning after I take her to school. Will my daughter remember that I didn’t have a lot to spend on Christmas gifts? No, because she will remember that I looked for things I knew she would truly love.

And when Christmas Eve comes and I am gathered with my family, I hope they do not remember that I talked too loudly, or too fast. I hope they do not remember that I sometimes zone out, that I am a bit twitchy and I’m scattered and chaotic. I hope they remember that I love them, and that I am grateful for the opportunity to share another holiday, a meal, and some laughs.

How do you Care for your Mentally ill Child? Love them.

I was asked a question the other day that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. The person asked how I dealt with my daughter’s needs. “How do you do it?” They asked.

The short answer is quite simple.

I love her.

I love her through the pain. I love her through the bad days. Love. It’s all I have.

When the depression strikes and she doesn’t want to move off the sofa I sit with her. I hold her when she needs me to and I sit quietly when she doesn’t. When the nightmares come and she won’t sleep for fear of them – I sit in her room so that she feels safe enough to try to sleep. When she has a panic attack I try to help her focus on her breathing. When she has flashbacks, I rub her back. When the anxiety is too much for her I try to help her find a distraction. When she harms, I smile and tell her it’s all right. I tell her how much I love her. I tell her how brave and beautiful she is.

When my heart is breaking for her I go into my room, close the door, and shed the tears that need to be shed. I emerge dry eyed to help her through. I help her find the good and the beauty in every day. I direct her as best I can to find coping strategies to move her into adulthood.

I wrap her in warm blankets and let her cry. I watch television with her when I have “better” things to do because she needs me to. I color with her and let the dishes sit in the sink. I take her for drives to calm her down no matter the gas prices or the miles on the car.

It’s as simple as love. That’s all it is. I have no special abilities. I don’t have all the answers. I listen. I encourage. I do it again. It’s all I can do. Do I wish I could do more? Of course I do. All parents have that same wish. I rely on her counselor. I rely on her doctor. I do the easiest thing of all – love her.

Depression. Anxiety. Self Harm. PTSD. ADHD. Panic Disorder. Those are terms we are very familiar with at our house. We are also very familiar with laughter, gratefulness, respect, kindness, and love.

I want to teach her to be proud of who she is. I want to teach her to accept herself for who and what she is. I want to teach her that her mental illness does not define her. I want to teach her to shine her light brightly. I want to teach her to embrace the good days, feel the joy that is inside of her, and accept the magic that is found in the world and in her own humanity.

She is a survivor. And the only thing I have done – is love her.

 

 

 

ADHD and Feeling Overwhelmed

Do you ever just feel like you are stuck? You’re going through the motions of day to day life, but you are only taking care of the minimum to get by?

Things are sliding, and you find yourself exhausted for no good reason and instead of doing the things you should be doing (in my case, working on my book revisions, second draft of another manuscript, freelance articles, my blog, or cleaning out the garage, getting the yard mowed…yeah, you get the picture) you find yourself instead watching mindless television or even playing some dumb game on your phone.

It’s hard to move forward and you just feel claustrophobic and disinterested.

 

I’ve been feeling like that for a while, and I’m trying to force myself to sit with these feelings and figure them out. I have a strong suspicion that my disinterest and general feelings of blah-ness (can we pretend that’s a word?) are probably more closely related to being overwhelmed than anything else.

What is this ADHD girl good at? Shutting down when I get overwhelmed, that’s what.

Is it good for me? Of course not. Does it happen before I realize it? You bet. Is it hard to then break out of the vicious cycle? Absolutely.

So here I sit. At least I’m blogging about it, right? That’s something. A step in the right direction maybe?

What I hate the most are the feelings of guilt that come along with it. My manuscript has been sitting on my coffee table for two weeks. I moved it there from the study because I was going to work on it. Sitting on top of that manuscript is a box of photos I just got back of our summer vacation, a paper with a list of Spanish speaking soap operas because my daughter was supposed to watch them for Spanish class, and an order form for sheet music. Next to that is four notebooks, all open, stacked on top of one another. Each for a different purpose, such as note taking for my freelance articles.

The point is that it is all just sitting there. Doing nothing. Collecting dust. Because I haven’t had the energy to look at any of it.

I have some major changes coming my way and I have to figure out some extremely important stuff. And yet here I just sit.

My daughter is in tenth grade, just turned fifteen, and suddenly there is extra car insurance to think about, the fact that I need a new car altogether to think about, college application and funding to think about, and yet here I just sit.

In the back of my mind I am thinking about the steps I need to take to expand my freelance writing. Yet I’m not doing any of those things. I’m thinking about the novel I’m working on, my desire to find an agent, but again, it’s like I’m just blocking it all out and riding some wave to my doom.

I recognize the overwhelm. Things are changing, I have huge decisions to make about my own future as well as oversee my daughter’s future – and I just don’t know where to start.

Overwhelm.

I know what it is. I just need to figure out a way to crawl out of it now that I’ve gotten myself down into it.

I tried to blame it on the chaos that always comes with going back to school and getting back into routine, but school has been in session for a month. I’m so far behind now I’m not sure if I will ever catch up.

My writing has just come to a standstill. I don’t work on anything at all. How can that be? I have too many plans to let each day slip through my fingers without writing.

It’s the disinterest. Which I don’t think is disinterest at all.

ADHD can have its good points, but it can also have it’s difficulties. Like my brain tuning out when I need it the most.

I just want to feel like me again. I just want to feel some excitement at the thought of a blank page or the next round of re-writes.

I want to care that there is a cat hair tumbleweed floating across my living room floor.

I want to know that when the times comes, I’m going to have a plan for my future.

I want to open a new book and be excited to read it, instead of mindlessly binge watching NCIS on Netflix.

I wish I had some lighthearted, funny remarks to make about all of this, but I just don’t.

A’s battling the depression right now and I know part of it is also being worried about her. Cold little bugger, depression is. No big triggers – comes along and slaps her in the face when outwardly things are going pretty well. Lots of friends. Youth group activities. School going well. Enjoying school clubs.

Overwhelmed. That’s what I am. But I’m taking care of my girl and that’s all that matters right now. I’ll figure the rest out later. I always do.

Learning to let go of my Special Needs Child. (Just a Little)

I lied when I said I was okay.

I sit here outside the bookstore watching the sunset and I realize that at this very moment you are sitting on a bench somewhere by the water watching the same colors roll down the sky.

But it isn’t the same for you.

You are at the cusp of a new relationship. He probably has his arm around you right now. Maybe you are talking and laughing quietly, but maybe you are silent, watching the sky, your heart beating just a bit faster as you wonder what will happen next.

And I am not ready for this. I’m not ready to share you with this new boy in your life.

You have been through so much and we’ve managed it all together – we’ve barely begun to live a life free from the demons that haunted you for so long. I’m used to being the arm wrapped around you. I’m used to being your confidante and your place to run. I’m used to being the one that chases the bad dreams away, who kisses your tears and holds your hand. I’m not used to sharing your smile or your infectious laughter.

But I told you to go. I told you that you could go on this date. A date with a boy that packed you a picnic; a picnic at the beach to watch the sunset.

The orange sky is mocking me. It knows I lied. It knows I’m not ready. It knows that while you experience the first excitement of a budding relationship that I’m holding back the tears.

This means you are growing up. This means that soon you won’t depend on me as much, you won’t need me as much. You’ll need me. Sure. But things are changing. we will always be close but you are just one more step closer to womanhood. One more step away from me. It’s selfish, I’m aware, but I fear for you.

Will he understand your ADHD? Will he understand your Anxiety and Depression? Will he look beyond the self inflicted scars and see how amazing you are? Will he respect you and will he hold you when you are afraid? Will he chase away the ghosts that rear their ugly heads sometimes? Do you even want him to?

Will you remember all I have taught you? Will you remember that you are priceless and worthy of respect not just from others but from yourself?

I am no longer the first person you tell your secrets to. You have girlfriends now that you share things with. And there’s him. Oh, I know you are just starting to get to know one another, but he won’t be the last. This is just the beginning. For you. While I feel as if something precious is ending.

Is it because of all that we’ve been through that I feel this way, or do all mothers feel this same sadness and disquiet when their daughters reach a certain age? It’s been just the two of us for so very long. I’m not really sure what to do with myself, honestly.

I know we have much ahead of us and many memories left to make, but tonight I am forced to admit the reality that you are a sophomore. In less than three years you will be college bound. You have a life ahead of you that will not always include me. You will not always need me the way you have needed me up until now.

Do you guess how difficult this really is?

I don’t begrudge you this time or your friends or the life you are finally starting to live. I’ve pushed and pulled to get you to this point for this very thing. So that you may live. The rest is going to be up to you now.

No, you aren’t grown and you will still need my guidance, but let’s face it. As far as your values or the kind of person you are; it’s all set. My sphere of influence is waning – I’ve tried to teach you all I can. It’s going to be up to you to make wise choices.

I will no longer be with you every moment of every day and the hardest thing I will ever do is to entrust you to strangers – to smile and wave as you go off with friends, or dates, hoping that you will stay true to yourself and hoping they are worthy of you.

The sky is growing dark and you will be home soon. I will feel better then, but this is only the first of many nights where I will sit just waiting for you.

I love seeing you happy. I love seeing you enjoy friends. I love that you have confidence and want to do things when not too long ago you had to be forced to even leave the house. Not long ago you had no one to socialize with – no one to understand you or to dare to look past the face of mental illness and see who you really were. They had no idea what a truly amazing individual you were – but they do now. They know it because you no longer try to hide your light.

Friends abound and dates will too, I suppose. And I will be here through it all. I will always be here. I will do my best to smile when you come home. I will do my best to get used to the idea that this is a typical teenager’s life. A life you deserve.

Forgive me if I struggle. You’ve had too much pain already. You have had too much torment and grief. I never wish for you to return to the terrified, sad girl you have been. I will do my best to protect you from all I can. But I also have to let you go.

And trust your wings.

Back to School and Routine for ADHD Brains.

I always kind of dread back to school time, because I am selfishly having just so much darned fun with A- over the summer. Summers are GREAT – they really are. But they are awfully short too.

A loves high school, though, and after a couple weeks break she was pretty ready to go back to school. She said she honestly has started missing the routine that she used to balk against. I suppose as she gets older she sees the value in having a routine to help tame the ADHD symptoms. Personally, I think she was just missing seeing her friends every day. 🙂

Regardless of how ready (or not) we were, school was back in session today. If I am completely honest I’d have to say I understand what she meant about the routines. While I love having so much extra time to spend with my favorite girl, routines are good. I’ve gotten next to no work done this summer because I just get in the habit of, oh I’ll do it later. Sounds much better to veg out on the couch with A and watch a movie or play a game or draw when we don’t have to worry about homework and bedtimes.

But along with not getting much work done, not much else gets done either. Once the routines start slipping it trickles right down into everything. Clutter creeps in and rooms aren’t kept as neat as they were. Chores get pushed back “until tomorrow,” and everything starts to pile up.

So, maybe I’m happy to get back into the routine too. This morning I did some yard work after I dropped her off at school. Tonight while she worked on homework I tackled a writing project that has a deadline looming. Yeah, routines are good.

Getting back into the swing of things will feel pretty good. I need to get moving on the rewrite of my manuscript. I need to figure out what I want to do with Finding Home, the release of which I put off because I’m just ultimately not happy with the novel. I still have my freelance articles come due every month, and I really would like to finish up the short stories and put them together in a collection.

And then there’s all the other fun stuff that being an adult entails. The laundry. The cleaning. The driving your kid all over creation for this that or the other.

And I’m still launching that newsletter in October. Pretty cool!

We’ve been adventuring into the land of sustainability and greener living. Actually that is one reason why I haven’t gotten much work done. I’ve always been interested, always wanted to learn more, but in the past couple months it has been the source of my ADHD hyperfocus.

We’ve upped our recycling efforts, are working on our precycling and elimination of waste. I’ve begun making bottle bricks, which is actually oddly satisfying. Don’t ask me why.

I’ve made home made deodorant and household cleaner. I’ve begun composting. The amount of waste and needless consuming of even our household of two just really caught up with me. No more. I have a long way to go in my efforts, but I’m excited to be making lasting changes to our lifestyle and habits.

So bring on the school year and the routines. We’re ready!!