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.

 

 

 

New Pet!

Recently I wrote an article for New Life Outlook about the pros and cons of having a pet when you have ADHD. I mentioned how I missed having cats, and at the end of the article said that maybe I would check out the local shelters and see about a new addition to our family.

I know how good pets can be for those not just with ADHD, but Depression, Anxiety and also Self Harm. I was considering the fact that A- would probably benefit very much from having a cat. Not long after finishing the article, someone asked me if I would be interested in taking their cat. Talk about timing! So tonight I went and picked up the newest member of our family, a sweet little kitty named Maggie. She curled up in A’s lap on the way home and purred contentedly. Since we’ve been home, they have played and cuddled, the cat never getting too far away from A’s side. (not that A- would let her!)

A- had a rough day at school today, so she was very anxious this afternoon when she got home. I did not tell her about the cat, but just got her in the car and headed out, not telling her where we were going. Timing couldn’t have been better. Having a brand new pet in the house definitely took A’s mind off her day, and I know the cuddling soothed her in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

So I’m grateful for the gift of the kitty, and for the smile it brought to A’s face. I’m grateful for the distraction she provided that kept A’s mind occupied and not dwelling on bad things, or allowing herself to be sucked into the “bad” thoughts.

I know it’s just the first night with the new pet, but I’m hopeful that this will be a good thing and that Maggie will help A- when she is anxious and needs a friend to calm her. Lucky for Maggie she seems to enjoy cuddling!

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Don’t Act Like You Have a Clue When You Clearly do Not

*Knees creaking as I climb on my soapbox* (Get comfortable, people.)

To all you parents out there raising special needs children and doing your best every day – I am giving you the biggest round of applause right now, followed by a huge hug. You need to know that you are amazing. You need to know that there is beauty in the love and care that you give your children each and every day. I know that some days are beautiful while others are a struggle just to get to the end, but parenting means being what your children need and showing unconditional love. It means fighting for them, advocating for them, and wearing yourself thin oftentimes, to get them the care they deserve. I admire you.

We all have our individual struggles. Life is different for each and every person on this planet. What is hard for one, may be easy for another. What tears one child down may not phase another. We can’t compare hardships and struggles, we can’t make light of one person’s fight, and we can’t underestimate how difficult some things can be for others. We should strive to uplift one another, to celebrate victories together, and to recognize that the struggle is different for everyone. We should respect each other’s journeys.

I am overwhelmed right now. My heart is hurting because people that I expect should understand A-, people I think should know what she has been going through, don’t seem to get it at all. They haven’t seen it first hand, I suppose. They’ve been told about it.  But they don’t even try to understand. They even make it sound like it’s something she is making up – using for leverage in a game she is playing.  To people who don’t seem to grasp the seriousness of her situation, I say they should live a day in her head before making unintelligent remarks. Watch her for just one day and see the sheer mental exhaustion that comes from trying to get through it, and then make light of her pain. Not to mention the physical exhaustion from lack of sleep.

People tell me that A- can’t be “that” depressed because they saw her smiling. Don’t they know a smile is one of the biggest lies of depression? Have they never seen that the smile doesn’t reach the eyes? Have they never heard the fake “I’m fine” in a voice?

People say that when something happened recently in A’s life that was a positive change for her that they knew she would “immediately get better.” What? Really? Immediately? It doesn’t work that way. First, she has to trust that the thing will actually last – that she is being told the truth. Once she believes, then maybe she can work on healing. But that is going to take a long, long time. Are they suggesting that she is faking mental illness to get what she wants? I can certainly attest to the fact that that is not the case. And depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are NOT going to immediately go away upon the receipt of good news.

So to those who don’t seem to understand what depression and anxiety can do, let me fill them in just a bit. It could take a while to fill someone in on the entire seven years since my child first told me she wanted to kill herself, but there are moments that come to mind.

I am overwhelmed with sadness when I think of the childhood A- has missed out on due to her anxiety and depression. So many years spent with constant gnawing worry. The crying, the sobbing, the nightmares, the panic attacks, and the ever present desire to hurt herself and the wish to end her life. When you have listened to your child pray to die – to ask God to take her because she isn’t strong enough to keep living – you know in that moment that you would trade your life for hers if it would make hers better. The pain is unbearable. That is a helplessness you can’t even describe.

How many times have I physically restrained my child as she tried to hurt herself? When she was younger I’d have to hold her for hours to keep her from bashing her head on the floor. As she got older I’d catch her trying to burn herself, or cut. Not to mention the infernal rubber bands she now keeps around her wrists, snapping them up and down her arms until the angry, red, swollen stripes appear. How many sleepless nights have we shared in this house? How many hours has she screamed until her voice was raw and no sound would come out, because the voice in her head was screaming at her from the inside? How many hours of counseling, how much money in medical bills, how much worry?

How long was I afraid to cry, because I knew if I did I might never stop? I had to appear strong for her, even when I didn’t know how to be.

How long has she felt worthless? How long has she hated herself? The answer is too long. As A- recently explained to someone, depression can come from internal sources or external sources. You can be born with a predisposition for depression, or something can happen to you; like bullying, trauma or abuse that causes depression. Hers was caused by the latter.

Unless you have lived with a suicidal child, do not judge my child’s journey. When you have wrestled a razor out of your child’s hands in the shower, or searched for days for a shard of glass that you know they secreted away, or locked up your kitchen knives and switched to plastic dishes, when you can’t leave your teen home alone for even half an hour – then you have an idea of what it’s like.

A- often tells me that the only reason she is still alive is because she would force herself to think of how awful it would be for me if she were to do something to herself. She always keeps her promises to me. A while back I made her promise me not to kill herself. She didn’t want to promise. She told me it wasn’t fair of me to ask her – because I knew she wouldn’t break a promise to me, but I had to understand how much she wanted to die.

How do you cope when your child asks you to understand how much they want to die?

I told her that was the reason why I had to ask it of her; because I was confident she would not break the promise.  Yet she almost did, just a short couple months ago. She found a knife. She had it hidden. She planned to use it. One day, during a bad episode, she appeared to become calm and told me she needed to take a shower. All the crying had her head hurting and she thought a shower would help. She went into the bathroom and locked the door and turned on the water. I was sitting right in the other room and realized almost too late that I had heard the click of the lock – she never locked the door because I asked her not to. Just as I was headed to the bathroom with a key, she came out, shaking. She met me in the hallway and sunk to the ground. I sank onto the floor beside her. She handed me the knife. She buried her face in my lap and told me she was sorry, that she almost did something stupid. I don’t know what stopped her, I really don’t, so I am going to give the credit to God.

I always thought as long as I had her with me I could keep her safe. I could watch her. At that moment I knew it was time to think about hospitalizing her. I was afraid I could no longer keep her safe. But they would only keep her seventy two hours at the most. Three days wasn’t going to change anything. (Hospitalization can certainly be necessary in some cases – as parents we have to make decisions, sometimes in a split second and we have to make tough choices based on our own individual children and what we believe will be best for them.)

I’m going to fast forward a bit and say that she IS getting better. When the thing that changed in her life happened, it gave her hope. Maybe she doesn’t quite believe it will last, but for the first time, she WANTS to feel better. She wants to stop living this way. The nightmares still plague her. But to those who think the change will be immediate, I have to say you are plain foolish. How can someone live in such pain for seven years and then have it magically disappear like smoke? That is far from realistic.

What the change will do is to continue to give her hope. It will give her a place to start. It has given her the DESIRE to get better. It has given her something to fight for. A friend told A- just this week that things were going to get better. She asked when? They told her that it was going to happen when she was ready. They told her that her past was not going to change, that it was already gone and the scars had already been left. They told her nothing was ever going to erase it, but when she was ready to feel better, when she was finally ready to ACCEPT feeling better, that that’s when it would happen. When she realized she deserved it and when she realized that she wanted it.

She’s starting to realize she wants it – but it’s going to take time. A- doesn’t trust that things will last. Past experience has shown her that she can’t always trust someone’s word. Maybe time will show her otherwise.

Don’t pretend to know what someone’s life is like when you haven’t been there to witness it. Don’t trivialize the pain of others. Don’t pretend to know anything about things you’ve never seen. Don’t belittle someone’s illness by erroneously believing that they can heal overnight. Don’t assume they are seeking attention or faking to get something they want. If you’ve lived with them for five minutes you know they are not faking. And I won’t even address the thought of attention seeking.

Be kind. Be supportive. Be a positive influence. Be a role model. Be a friend. Support parents. Keep snide comments to yourself, because believe me, we are just too exhausted to explain it all to you.

I know I haven’t been talking much about ADHD lately, let alone sharing the often funny stories of life as a non neurotypical, but it’s been a roller coaster around here lately, with depression ruling the day. Funny moments have happened. Good times have happened. Moments with my daughter that I would not trade for the world have happened. And I’m grateful. I’m hoping the coming months will see more of those good times – I’d like to concentrate a little more on the up side of living with ADHD.

I wrote this today for a reason. I wrote it because I couldn’t NOT write it. Today I am sick of hearing others judge my daughter. I am tired of defending her to people that I should not have to defend her to. I’m heartbroken over how she is missing out on some important relationships in her life because they refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, or refuse to accept her as she is. You know what? That’s okay. Because I do. I accept my child just as she is right here and now, and there is NO greater joy in this world than being her mother. Despite all of it, the depression, the anxiety – I have an amazing daughter. She has no idea how truly inspiring and wonderful she really is. My heart is full just thinking about her. And I will always have that. I will always have her. I have memories to look back on and I have memories yet to make.

And she is going to be just fine. It just isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

*climbing down now*