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.