My Thanks for Wellness : The 12 Days of Thanks

In the past, I have experienced a lot of trauma directly related to holidays.  As a child, my father would throw these epic temper tantrums, because he really wasn’t interested in participating in them.  He didn’t want to go out, and he was hell bent on making everyone pay for forcing him into it.

That, in turn, had some serious effects on the family.  My mother would get into a frenzy and suffer from terrible anxiety prior to each holiday.  On the day of the holiday, she would frantically try to get everything together and do as much damage control as possible.

My brother, who has autism, would pick up on this and throw temper tantrums of his own.  He also has the OCD component involved with some forms of autism, so things would have to be absolutely perfect.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.

Then, we would arrive at the homes of our family members.  They were just as stressed out as our own family, and always in plainly terrible moods.

The holidays season was usually a complete disaster for my entire family.  We were pretty poor while I was growing up.  There was the business of buying a complete Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that we would dine at my overly crowded aunt’s house anyway.  It was at my brother’s demand.  Then, there was the obvious inconvenience to my mother for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner when she absolutely despises cooking.

Rinse and repeat for Christmas.  However, with Christmas, there was the overwhelming burden of buying Christmas presents on a very limited budget.  As much as I can fault my parents for things, when I was a kid, they really did their best to not disappoint us on Christmas.  However, the stress of it all saturated the air around me.  The mood that hung around me was charged and dark.  And I picked up on all of it.

As I grew into a young adult, Thanksgivings and Christmases became disappointing and tedious.  Presents became fewer, and my parents became almost resentful toward me for having to buy me presents once I was an adult.  I was still obligated to participate with a smile on my face, even though I carried all of the bad memories of fighting in the car and vicious attacks from my brother.

My husband and I married, and just before our first Christmas as a family, he was laid off.  We were scraping by with a newborn son.  It was probably the most disappointing Christmas of all, when we basically had to ask our family for handouts, just so we could get by until the New Year.  It was just more likely that Xan would be able to be hired in a new job in January.

That was the Christmas the broke me entirely when it came to the holiday season.  I had few fond memories of Christmas to draw from.  The ones in the recent past had been so gloomy.  Everything about it was depressing, and there was hardly a reason to look forward to it.

Instead of loathing the holiday season this year, I decided to start a project called The 12 Days of Thanks.  This year, I would like to focus on all of the positives.  And I want to practice expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things in my life.

Today, for my first installment of my series, The 12 Days of Thanks, I want to give thanks for wellness.  Both in body, mind, and wellness in those in my family.

I have had some serious health problems in my life.  In addition to having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I suffer from somatic health problems.  They are all relatively minor.  I have been plagued with asthma and allergies my entire life, causing me difficulty with breathing and recurring bronchitis most times I get sick with something minor.  I suffer from “knock-knee”, which caused me to develop tendinitis   Every time the weather changes, my knees ache and swell.  Throughout the years, I have developed prediabetes and developing heart disease, mostly related to a combination of bad genetics and weight.

But, worst of all, I battled cervical cancer for four years of my life.  Thankfully, my case of cervical cancer didn’t require me to undergo the usual methods of treating cancer.  However, it did cause me to go through a number of uncomfortable exams, painful biopsies, and two different surgeries that may have compromised my reproductive ability.

Despite all of these, I am thankful for my wellness.  On November 10th of this year, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my LEEP procedure.  So far, I’ve been free of cervical cancer for over a year now.  And in another six months, as long as my tests come back fine, I will be cleared of it entirely.

I am grateful for the periods of wellness that I experience within Bipolar Disorder.

And I have so much gratitude toward the doctors that helped me get to this point of wellness in my life.

But, most of all, I am grateful for the wellness of my family.  Xan rarely catches any of the illnesses that pass through this house.  And if he does, it’s relatively mild.  Beast is well, with no serious health problems.  Although he does have Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is.  I grew up with my brother, who has ASD much worse than my son.  I realize that it could have been a lot worse.  And, I’m grateful for the Early Intervention he received from the most wonderful professionals I’ve ever met.

I’m grateful that my family is well, and continues to do well.

Regret Nothing : 30 Days of Truth

Day 22 : Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.
Drew Barrymore

As a woman with Bipolar Disorder, emotions are a quintessential part of my life.  So, naturally, it would be shocking for me to admit that regret is not an emotion that I often experience.  Difficult to believe?  I would certainly believe so, especially in a person where emotions are often extreme and feral!

I experience a certain lack of regret for a number of reasons.

I typically choose my words and actions wisely.  I have often said, “There are just some things in this life that you cannot take back.”  Once certain behaviors are out there in reality, there may be no amount of apology or reparations that can fix the damages.  However, this is not to say that I don’t make my fair share of mistakes.

I do not regret my mistakes.  Mistakes are learning experiences, not irreparable failures.  Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  That is exactly the nature of mistakes.  They are meant to teach us lessons.  It is up to us to derive an appropriate lesson from our mistakes.

There is another saying out there about regret.  “Never regret anything, because at one time, it was exactly what you wanted.”  That is precisely it.  Often, the choices that we make seem like the best choices for us at the time.  I am a stubborn kind of person, and even if there was some kind of time machine where I could go back and warn myself, I would certainly not have heeded my own warning.

I am a firm believer in fate, and I have faith that everything happens from significant purpose to later be determined in hindsight.  You know what they say, hindsight is 20 / 20.  And when we begin to work out the course of the events in our lives, we start to see how the tapestry comes together to weave the people we have become.

I am a stronger person person for having bipolar disorder.  I am a better mother for having a son on the spectrum.  I am a better wife, because I have a husband who loves me.  I am a more determined person for having dropped out of college.  Each struggle provides me with more character and more things to build myself up.

A wealth of evidence exists in my life to prove fate to me.  Xan and I met ten and a half years ago, through my high school sweetheart.  The two of them had become college roommates, and I had grown quite close to Xan.  And throughout the years, we remained close friends, despite any falling outs we may have had.  It was like we were drawn together by some unexplainable force.  I explained a great deal of that in a series of posts entitled, “Possibility and Ascention”, “Seeds of Affection”, and “Mo Anam Cara”. After all we had went through in the five years we weren’t romantically involved, we came together after all.  And as imperfect as my marriage is, it is the most perfect, unconditional love I have ever experienced.  I have certainly found my soulmate.

Every experience has a place in the tapestry of one’s life.  Experience is an essential part of who we are.  Our successes and mistakes come to shape us into the people that we are.  And without those experiences, we might not be the people that we will eventually come to cherish.

Often, I treat everyday as if it were my last day, or potentially the final day for someone I love.  After Xan’s car accident, my eyes were wide open to the fragility of life and the certain mortality we all face.  Each day must have some peaceful conclusion, lest someone passes in the night.  A lesson has to be derived from each event, and work toward the betterment of my myself and those around me.  And each day, I attempt to say or do at least one thing to better another person’s life.  Or at least their day.

I live life to live it.  I regret nothing.  Because in the end, it is my life.

Treasure

Today, my son taught me an important lesson on value and how we place it.

My son is a really special little guy. He has Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified on the Autism Spectrum.  So, a lot of little things that would be be considered typical in other children are really significant for him.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent tell their four year old to shut up because the chatter became overbearingly annoying.  I always feel that twinge of sadness, fearing that my son may never speak enough for me to become aggravated at all.  Those moments are significant for me, too.

But, then there are those moments that are significant in an enlightening way.

I was sitting at the dining room table this morning with my wallet and what we call “The petty cash box”.  I was mindlessly dumping change into it when my son approached me.  When he speaks, I listen with all of my might to make out what he is saying.  It might be the only thing I ever put my full attention into.  He said, “Mommy, money!”  I was thrilled that he took an interest in what I was doing, and I allowed him to put the money in the box while supervised.

He happily put the money in, and presented me with a quarter saying, “Mommy, want quarter?”  I was delighted that he could identify it.  Suddenly, he grabbed the box and started to walk away.  I was about to chase him down just when he put it on the end table. He turned to me excitedly and shouted, “Look, Mommy! Treasure!”

He started to prattle on about being a pirate when my heart just melted. It was a brilliant observation. The little box kind of resembled a treasure chest, brimming with different colored coins. And that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t just about the likeness. It was about the whole interaction. And the whole thing had taken on an entirely different value.

I started to think about the things that I value. What do I cherish?

The realization hit me. Lately, I’ve been dwelling on the things that I want, but don’t have. My focus had been shifted onto the seemingly hopeless pursuit of these things. And I realized that those things are intangible idealizations that may never even have the possibility of becoming a reality. Those things had gained all of the value over the things I truly cherished and clouded my mind.

What do I value then?

Little, daily victories for my son. A few engaged words here and snippets of hopeful conversation there. His new discoveries and interests. And each beautiful little smile and giggle. All of those shining moments that give me hope for his development through Autism Spectrum Disorder.

But even more for him, I value him. Him, as he is. My 4 foot tall, 55lb, brown haired, green eyed little Beast.

I value my husband’s caresses. This morning, he unexpectedly turned over and actually spooned me. It was more than welcome. It was soothing, comforting, and all spontaneous. It was one of those rare, intuitive moments he had. I cherish those.

But, I value even more than those fleeting moments. It is bigger than that. I see what I have missed all along. Every action is an intuitive, invested action. Whether I know it or not, he’s taking care of my needs that I don’t even think about anymore. I was overlooking what was right there in front of me because I was too involved with what I considered to be neglected needs.

Finally, my eyes started to open up.

When I really thought about it, I found value in myself today. I have been so fixated on what I am not, and the things I thought I had lost, I lost sight of who I am and all of the things I have gained. I am a mother. I am a wife. I have been those things for longer than I have been anything else. I am those things above all else. And I don’t know how I came to value anything else.

I lack certain qualities, but that does not make me devoid of myself. There is plenty of me. I am not stable, but I am spirited. I am not entirely well right now, but I cannot expect to be well all of the time. I have Bipolar Disorder. I am not Bipolar. I am more than my illness and more than my symptoms.

Today, I connected with my husband without trying or wanting. I connected with a son I thought I was losing to Autism Spectrum Disorder. But more so, he connected with me. He reached out and connected me with the world again. And that was what made all of the difference.

A new dawn, a new day.

Riding in Cars with Boys Again

It set him off.  He said, “And now there’s going to be people we don’t know traipsing all over our house again, judging us.  And there you were, making all of these decisions without me.”

Yesterday, Xan and I attended an evaluation for our son, Beast, for entrance into a special preschool for children with special needs.  Our son was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified in June 2011 while he was receiving Early Intervention Services.  For more information, visit the original post, “Riding in Cars with Boys”.

Needless to say, the evaluation didn’t go well.  They never really do.

I was furious.  I retorted, “I have to make these decisions, because you don’t.  You haven’t been there up until now.”

“I want to wait and think on this.  It’s happening too fast.  I can’t process it.  I don’t think we should start to seek services until November at the earliest.”

I went through the roof.  I threatened, “If you stand between me, our son, and getting him help, I promise you that I will leave you.  He needs these, and I will do anything to get him there.  It’s been too long already.”

“Fine.  Then leave,” he said shortly.

I stated, “I don’t want too, but –“

He interrupted, “No, I don’t want to hear it.  You leave then.  I’m done here.”

There was a long period of silence, where I felt the schism and then the great void opened up.  Something ensnared me, and pulled me by the ankle faster and faster toward the Great Below.  I clawed and scraped, desperately trying to hold on.  But, it was no use. I gave up.  I was dragged into The Hollow, where everything went black around the edges, and the rest of me was numb inside.

It’s as if I were suddenly disembodied, sitting in the back of the car with my son, watching the whole thing play out.  He went on about how this was such a danger to us, and I blankly told him that I didn’t care.  I was beyond caring.  I had a mission, and it no longer involved any real part of me.  It required my participation, in the very least.  Only a presence, just a husk of a woman as a placeholder for what was and what might have been.

“You said we needed a social worker.  I agreed.  Now we have one,” I argued flatly.

“No, this isn’t right,” he angrily disagreed, “I don’t need someone in my own house judging my parenting.  Judging us, wondering exactly how fit of parents we are to raise him.”

I struggled, “And what do you think is going to happen if we don’t get him services?”

“I don’t know, but it has to be better than this.”

I finally found my gusto and returned to myself for a flicker of a second to drive it in, “I’m not going to stand by and let my son turn into a dangerous retard, and end up in a special school, because someone was too afraid and disengaged to get him help!”

“What, like how you stood by when you were going through whatever you were going through?”

It hit me like a wrecking ball, shattering every bone in my body, every bit of what little cohesive world I had remaining.  I couldn’t say anything in return.  The knife had to be sturdily wedged between my ribs, and my life’s blood gurgled and oozed out.  The life drained from me, and I was once again driven backward, ears ringing violently with silence.

And then there was this great nothingness that emanated from within and saturated the air around us.  Instead of choking, I breathed it in eagerly, letting the numbness wash over me.  I was already far over the Precipice, eyes wide open, watching the ground come at me at the speed of sound.  I would end it all in one tiny little snip of an already fraying thread.

We sped over the hills and the valleys of our hometown, and I gazed out the window to stare at the autumn-colored trees as they passed.  I’m in the autumn of my existence, a voice narrated, echoing the caverns of my empty mind.  I watched from outside myself as he glanced over at me.  I never met his eyes.  I just continued to stare, the whole world muted into something unintelligible.

I could hardly make it out, “I’m sorry.  I’m just so scared about what this means for him.  Today, when I saw him being evaluated, I see an entirely different boy from the little boy I see to be my son.”

“I understand,” I murmured almost robotically.  In truth, I did.  He went on to explain his position, but the world remained too washed out.  The sound was distorted by static.  He went on to describe our son’s awful behavior during our session, and all I could manage was a whisper.  “Now you know how I felt when I did this alone.”

He had finally come to understand my position.  He was finally seeing the seriousness of the situation, and the dire need to get our son the help that he requires for his special needs.  “I’ve seen this significant backslide in the last few months.  He was doing so well.”  But, I was too exhausted and disconnected to explain it again when he asked.  I provided minimal answers.

The apology came too little too late.  If only there was an answering service for when I checked out completely.

It was completely unfair to him.  It was unjust to let him continue to sit in the dark while he was obviously trying to come back into the light, where truth and hope awaited him.  But, I couldn’t return when the threat still existed.  I had been knifed into oblivion, my soul spilling out onto the jagged rocks beneath me.  If I came back too soon, the voices would emerge and tell me lies.  Sweet, angry little lies, and play me like the fiddle that I am.

I slipped a Lamictal into my mouth and took a big swig of the strange vitamin water I picked up at the convenience store.  My soul is already partially deadened.  I might as well keep going.

It’s the only way.  It’s the only way to cope and deal with what I have at hand.  I may have lost my ability to remember, but maybe it is better this way.  Maybe, I have to forget the pain and the fear in order to switch tracks.  Maybe, I have to forget myself completely to surrender myself to the others.  Either way, I know what I have to do, even if I don’t know how to go about doing it.

Couples fight.  Even the best of couples.  We don’t see eye to eye, and we’re often to proud to admit to the other when we’re scared and vulnerable.  I’ve learned that over the last year.  We’re not supposed to be perfect, because we are imperfect beings.  Our marriage is perfect because it is imperfect.  And I know that we’ll get through this together.

I Want My Yellow Dress!

I am infamous for making pop culture references.  For those of you that don’t get the reference, I’ll break it down for you.  It comes from a scene in the move I’ll Do Anything (written by James L. Brooks, who does The Simpsons now), where the little girl, Jeannie and her estranged father are on an airplane.  Jeannie tells her father that she wants to wear her yellow dress.  He attempts to calmly explain to her that it’s in the luggage that’s under the plane.  Then, Jeannie starts throwing this epic temper tantrum, screaming and crying repeatedly, “I want my yellow dress!”  

Just to cause a bigger scene, Jeannie slaps herself to make it sound like her father did it.

There’s a point, I promise.  Today, my horoscope said this:

Here is your Daily Horoscope for Thursday, October 4

Your inner child is dominant today, so make the most of it and have fun! You should be able to get others energized and find new ways to do almost anything. If you’ve actually got kids, so much the better!

Inner child by Irene Majale

My immediate response?  What inner child?

I don’t feel childlike, in any respect.  I take absolutely no pleasure in children’s games or activities.  I often find it difficult to have a conversation with a child.  Not to say that I am unable to enjoy their company.  I am at a loss for what children like to do.

I have always done pretty adult activities, with the exception of playing with dolls, but even that was pretending to take care of a house, a husband, and a child.  I am drawn to solitary activities.  I write.  I doodle.  I read.  I craft, and have been called grandma as a result.  These have been the constants in my life.

That’s when I realized it.  I am childlike in a different way.  I throw temper tantrums.  I have obsessive wants and abandonment issues.  I have a desperate need for approval.  I fear authority figures, and I often find that I feel helpless.  This is helpless over my own behavior and helpless to fulfill my own wants and needs.  I am rebellious and conflicted.

My inner child is not very healthy.

I have had a retrospect of my childhood recently and came to several conclusions.

  • I grew up too fast.
    It didn’t start out as something I wanted to do.  I started out as something I needed to do.  As a sibling of autism, you are taught that you have to be adult about a lot of situations.  That means, when you have feelings of neglect and resentment, you have to repress them.  It’s the adult thing to do.I had a serious misconception.  At the time of adolescence, I made the decision to take on the freedom of an adult, since I had carried the burden of responsibility of an adult in childhood.  Perhaps it was due to bodily changes, or just coming-of-age.  Either way, I made some irresponsible choices to participate in grown-up activities in adult situations way too soon.
  • I was an overachiever.
    Achievement leaves little room for childlike activities.  It requires self-discipline the likes of which no ordinary kid could offer to themselves.  I practiced my music alone.  I became second chair, next to a girl who had lessons.  I became a second part section leader at the age of eleven.  I joined library club, just to put books away and spend my free time reading classic literature far above my head.I didn’t play sports.  I loathed gym and feared recess.  Most of the time, I would sit on the bleachers alone, staring into the vastness of the parking lot.  And there wasn’t a soul who was interested in having me join their game.
  • I was a sensitive child who needed to grow thicker skin.
    My preschool teacher was the first person to bring this to my mother’s attention.  What little girl doesn’t cry at the age of four?  What parent seems to think that crying is unhealthy?  Well, it was the 80’s after all.By the time I was in second grade, I started to develop panic attacks.  They landed me in the nurses office frequently, and I was deemed a hypochondriac at that time.

    Fourth grade was when I had the toughest teacher of them all.  I read her comment on the report card before my mother even had the chance.  “Does not take constructive criticism.”  After I work my little rear off, she has the gall to say that?!  Yes, I was discouraged that I wasn’t perfect at everything.  Maybe a little reassurance, you know?

My inner child seems to still be pretty angry about all of this stuff.

I get it, now.  I have spent a great deal of time and energy into satisfying the immediate demands of my inner child.  Or, on the opposite end, I have been denying my inner child completely.  I have really done nothing to nurture and attend to this internal being.

How do I go about doing that?

Astrology suggests looking at my Moon sign to determine the kind of soul food that I need.  However, it seems that, while astrology may have a clue as to where my interests lie, psychology appears to have a better grasp on the nature of the inner child.

Livestrong.com has a list of suggestions.  Here are the ones I like the best:

What nurturing messages can you give your “inner child”?
You can tell your “inner child” that it is OK to:
* Have the freedom to make choices for itself.
* Be “selfish” and do the things you want to do.
* Take the time to do the things you want to do.
* Associate only with the people you want to associate with.
* Accept some people and to reject others.
* Give and accept love from others.
* Allow someone else to care for you.
* Enjoy the fruits of your labor with no guilt feelings.
* Take time to play and have fun each day.
* Not to be so serious, intense and inflexible about life.
* Set limits on how you are going to relate to others.
* Not always “serve” others.
* Accept others “serving” you.
* Be in charge of your life and not let others dictate to you.
* Be honest with others about your thoughts and feelings.
* Take risks and to suffer the positive or negative consequences of such risks.
* Make mistakes, laugh at them and carry on.
* Let your imagination and creativity be set free and to soar with the eagles.
* Cry, hurt and to be in pain as long as you share your feelings; do not repress or suppress them.
* Be angry, to express your anger and to bring your anger to some resolution.
* Make decisions for yourself.
* Be a problem solver and come up with solutions with which everyone may not agree.
* Feel happiness, joy, excitement, pleasure and excitement about living.
* Feel down, blue, sad, anxious, upset and worried, as long as you share your feelings.
* Love and be loved by someone whom you cherish.
* Be your “inner child” and to let it grow up, accept love, share feelings and enjoy pleasure and play.

The Friday Confessional – Carry on My Wayward Son

My son, Beast.  He’s . . . spirited.  I’d love to leave it at that, but this is The Friday Confessional.

I love my boy to pieces.  But, I knew he was going to be a handful long before he was even born into this world.  I had a rather difficult pregnancy.  And he hilariously went silent and still whenever anyone tried to “feel the baby kicking”.  While he was on the inside place, he managed to kick himself to a position where he was constantly ramming his head into my cervix.  He accidentally got his foot stuck in between one of my ribs and struggled wildly to get free.  Once he was free, he did it again for what I can only consider as fun.  People don’t seem to think that fetuses can have emotions or fun.  I know differently from my son.

My son was born with this particular temperament.  He was a lazy and impatient nurser, who refused to nurse and preferred the bottle.  That’s my son.  Obstinate beyond all logic.  When that boy puts his foot down on something, that is the word.  And we clash at every point.

It’s not entirely his fault.  In June 2011, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified.  In short, that puts him on the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum.  I wrote:

I’ve always said that nothing in life prepares you to be a parent like being a parent.  Truly.  In my youth, I’ve helped to raise so many people’s babies and toddlers, but it was nothing like becoming a mother myself.  Sure, I had the care basics down, but that’s not even scratching the surface.

So therefore, nothing can prepare you for a professional telling you there is something wrong with your child.  Not even if you suspect it yourself.

That was over a year ago.

In truth, I’m in denial.

The battle wounds are still fresh from my youth.In those days, I found I was the most comfortable in the tiniest of places, completely unlike today, where confined spaces are cause for the air being vacuumed from my lungs, and my brain to catch fire.  Those were only places I recall being safe; wedged between the sink and the wall, tucked in the back of a closet, curled up in a cabinet under the sink.  Those places were quiet and dark.  The only places I could find serenity and safety.

I remember instances where my hulking brother would hunt me down. Those were my go-to places.  As long as I took refuge when the violent fits started, I had a chance of being safe.  He may have tried hard to swipe at me, but I had the advantage.  I was a small girl who could ball up and disappear from this world.  In those places, I could be safe from brutal, unprovoked attacks.

Out of sight is out of mind.

And out of mind it out of sight.

The injustice perpetrated on me went far beyond that.  That was considered excusable behavior due to my brother’s condition.  I was told things like, “He can’t help himself, but you can.”  I never did anything to purposefully antagonize him.  I feared him.  And when my parents would practically reward his behavior by conceding to his every desire, I hated him.  Even to this day, I still hate him for all of the gifts and attention he siphoned off from me.  I was a model child with straight A’s and glowing reviews from teachers.  He was a terrorizing monster.

When my son was diagnosed in the same spectrum, I was crushed.  Some parents can say they were blindsided by the diagnosis, but I certainly was not.  I saw the signs long before a doctor had to confirm them.  I was just hoping that there was some alternative explanation.  I don’t love him any less.  But, in truth, I see him differently.  Maybe differently than a parent should.

I remember being pregnant.  And I remember having serious talks with the sky boss.  I pleaded, “Please, God.  Please don’t let my son have autism.  I can’t handle that.  I wanted to deny it.  I would tell people how high functioning he is, and how his developmental deficits were not that of a child with autism or aspergers.  When he was denied entry into a regular preschool because they aren’t equipped to handle him, I was crushed again.  My hopes that he was developmentally appropriated were dashed.

The truth is, my son is disabled.  And he needs my help, now.

And here’s the worst part of my confession.  I have a certain amount of resentment for his condition.  I find it difficult to interact with him appropriately.  When he acts out aggressively, I meet him with a certain amount of aggression of my own.  I refuse to be terrorized by my own son, a huge, strong little four year old.  It makes me feel small and scared every day of my life.

There is rare gratification.  Most parents have children that will play with them.  My son tries, but he can’t seem to make it happen.  I watch him struggle with basic things.  I feel like a failure of a parent, because he’s not potty trained and mostly refuses to wear clothing.  I resent him when I am cleaning up bodily fluids he carelessly threw everywhere, like a little animal.  And I hate myself when I liken him to a puppy in my mind.

But, there a moments where he looks me dead in the eye and says things like, “Look Mommy, out the window.  Look, the trees!”  Or, the day that we were outside and he scraped his leg.  He straddled me and we held each other, rocking for awhile.  Then, he grabbed me by my shoulders, held me away to look at me and sang, “I yuv you.  You yuv me!”

There are those rare moments of hope that I hold to.  Even in my darkest hours.

Up For Some Blog Tag?

I don’t know about some of you guys, but I’ve been coming up short in the writing arena lately.  Not because I don’t have anything to complain about (I don’t), but the Abilify is making my head unusually empty.  So, I’d like to toss around a game of tag!  Enjoy!

Da Rules:

Write ten facts about yourself, all true, and then pass it on to ten people.

Da Facts:

  1. I don’t like red meat.  I really don’t.  I am not a big fan of meat in general.  Except cheeseburgers.  I love cheeseburgers.  They are my downfall every time I attempt vegetarianism.
  2. I sleep in my contacts.  I’m so vain.  No, just kidding.  I just really love waking up and not fishing for a pair of glasses.  There’s something beautiful about waking up and being able to see the world without some plastic foreign object on your face.
  3. I live in Pittsburgh.  For those of you that might not know, I live in the City of Champions.  Most livable city in the US.  Six Superbowl Rings.  Four Stanley Cups (that I know of).  Jaywalking is a birthright.  The most disgusting rivers you will ever see, all three of them.  So bad that Bruce Willis said he will never, ever go in them again.  Most cloudy days of any major US city.  And more sets of stairs than San Francisco, believe that or not.  This city is the best.
  4. I was not born in Pittsburgh.  Unlike the rest of the natives, I was not born at Magee Women’s Hospital.  I wasn’t even born in this city.  I was actually born in a little town outside of Atlanta, GA.  I was raised there for several years and then hauled to Pittsburgh.
  5. I occasionally have a southern accent.  If I am drunk enough, surrounded by southerners, or actually in the south, I will slip into a southern accent.  The more time I spend in the south, the harder it is for me to get rid of.  I went down for a week for my honeymoon, and couldn’t get rid of it for three weeks, much to my husband’s disgust.  He’s one to talk; he has a mix of a Pittsburgh accent and a Brooklyn accent.
  6. I speak three languages.  Good English.  Bad English.  And Pittsburghese.  Look it up, it’s a real thing.
  7. I play more than one instruments.  I play most instruments in the woodwind family, and some in the percussion family.  I do not play any strings or brass.  It’s just not in me.
  8. My hair is naturally blonde.  Just not as blonde as I dye it!
  9. My son has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I know I don’t talk about it often, but my son was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified in May 2011.  My brother has classical autism, so it was a hard diagnosis to take in.  I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Not again, God, I can’t handle this my whole life.”  The good news is that he’s coming along just fine, though he’s still delayed.
  10. I am on five psychiatric medications.  Lamictal, Abilify, Xanax, Wellbutrin, and Temazepam.  I hear that’s actually pretty tame in comparison.

Now, here’s the tagging.  If you come upon this, then TAG, YOU’RE IT!  I mean, if you really want.  I’m just not going out of my way to tag others today.

Taunts of Absolution : 30 Days of Truth

Day 4 : Something you have to forgive someone for.

In years past, my relationship with my parents was far beyond dysfunctional. Although we are building a mutually respectful relationship as adults, I do not feel as if I am considered a daughter. I am a family friend, the mother of their grandson. That extraordinarily detrimental relationship created a schism too great to have a distinct parent-child relationship. I have resigned myself to the notion that I will never be my parents daughter, and they will never be my mother and father.

I have touched upon the subject in prior posts, One Day, I’m Going to Grow Wings, Spitting Fire, and The Real Demons. Mostly, I fear I will remain unable to absolve them of the responsibility for the suffering they caused me, directly and indirectly.

I have to question every aspect of my childhood. The problem arises, because I don’t remember the greater majority of my childhood prior to age twelve. I could never figure out the reason for such an impenetrable block. It was only very recently that I discovered the numerous reasons for such incredible repression.

My brother has moderate autism. My mother was a raging alcoholic. And my father is a war veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As if that wasn’t dysfunctional enough, it accumulated into an overall bad home life. I have fragmented memories, drudged up by raising my own son.

My father was largely absent prior to age twelve. Most of his time was spent in the psychiatric ward in the Veteran‘s Affairs Hospital. And when he released back home, he isolated himself from the family. I was far too young to understand what was happening. All I knew was that my daddy was sick, and he was never going to get any better. To me, it felt like my daddy didn’t love me. He didn’t love any of us.

required special accommodations. I was lonely, and felt as if I were nonexistent to them. Completely transparent in their world. I did everything I could for recognition. My grades were perfect, and my standardized scores were well into the 98th percentile. I had taught myself my instrument in one summer and My parents were busy handling my brother. He had special needs that ]gained first chair. My attendance in Sunday School was spotless, and I was a devout Episcopalian. What more could a parent ask for in their own daughter?

All of these achievements bred resentment among my classmates, and they alienated me from their social groups. My mother made it crystal clear when I was just a little girl that she had no desire to play with me. My brother was nowhere near my level of functioning to participate in games. I spent many nights in solitude, alone in my room with only my dolls and stuffed animals.

When I began middle school, I finally began to make friends. It was the best thing that ever happened to me! Finally, I wouldn’t be so alone. I was incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of friendship and all of the wonderful kinship it entailed.

It was short lived. Only a year later, I began to suffer my first symptoms of bipolar disorder.

And that is the precise time my father emerged from his decade long hibernation. The man was disgusted with everything about me. He was certainly a far cry from shy about vocalizing his opinions. The criticisms ranged from my appearance, to my friends, to my music, and my hobbies. I was hurt. It was more evidence to strengthen my theory of his lack of love for me, as I was, instead of his idea of me.

I was also enraged. Who was he to come bursting into my life after so many years of absence?

He was merciless in his punishments. The greater majority of my teen years were spent incarcerated in the very same room I was isolated in as a girl. These were typically for minor infractions – “talking back” (which I considered to be expressing an opinion), disrespect, messy room, “feigning illness”, lying, etc. All because I wanted some independence and to assert myself as an individual.

In heated arguments, he would rough me up. He was careful not to do this when my mother was around, or leave any evidence. One time, I called him an asshole. Insistently, he got in my face and demanded I take a free swing at him. I refused. It would only provide him with an opportunity to lay his hands on me.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. He grabbed my throat in one hand and pinned me against the wall, and lifted me high into the air. I tried to scream, but there was not enough air in my lungs. He screamed in my face, leaving me soaked in spit. He let me go, and I crumpled to the ground, nearly in tears.

I won’t cry. I won’t give him the satisfaction.

My mother found an even better excuse to take figurative and literal swings at me. She’d get belligerently drunk and deliberately provoke me. I would attempt escape, but there was nowhere to go. I wasn’t even allowed the privacy of a door on my room.

There was an instance where she followed me around the house, insulting me as I went. I begged her to leave me alone. I attempted escape to somewhere, anywhere I could possibly manage in the house. I ended up heading to my room, of course. She taunted me, saying, “You’re just a lot of fucking talk, you little bitch. I’ll teach you a lesson about that mouth of yours.”

She swung at me, and caught me across my right jaw. Instinctively, I pulled my right hand back, and swung down toward her face, backhanding her as hard as I could. Disoriented by the blow, she stumbled backward, nearly falling down a flight of stairs. (It wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last). I grabbed her arm and pulled her forward to standing.

A look of shock and malice spread across her face as she spewed, “Just wait until I tell your father.”

So many things were said. Hurtful, awful things.

My father:

This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship, and I’m the dictator!

I wish you were never born!

How dare you defy me, you little bitch!

Go on! Run up to your room and play that gloomy noise you call music. I dare you to cut yourself! Cut to your hearts content, I don’t give a shit!

My mother:

You are the little bitch that ruined my life!

Go on out there and be the little slut that you are.

I am ashamed to even take you out in public.

If it weren’t for you, your father and I would never fight. You’re going to tear our family apart. I hope you’re happy.

These haunting words still have a faint echo in certain corridors of my mind.

– Staind

I cried out for help. I was dismissed as spoiled, going through a phase, and attention-seeking. I did need attention. By the time I was in high school, I had attempted suicide twice and was cutting at least weekly. And still, they turned a blind eye to it. I had to force their hand to get the help I needed. I can’t help but feel if they were more involved, they would have noticed my behavior was amiss. They failed to get me diagnosed correctly.

For a great duration, I held them accountable for my screwed up mind. In my eyes, all of the neglect and abuse made me crazy. I went on to have dysfunctional and abusive relationships. I was devoid of self-esteem and vulnerable. My baggage would have been too much to check at the airport.

As I have grown, I have come the realization that certain things were beyond their capacity for parenting. They could not have been better parents, given the circumstances. It’s not as if there weren’t moments where they tried. By that point, the damage had been done.

I have tried desperately to forgive them for those awful behaviors. But, each time I find myself getting close, another hurtful experience comes to pass, reviving old memories that I relive in my mind over and over again. Some scars will never fade. I can never forget. But perhaps, one day, I will have the capacity to forgive all of their wrongdoings.

20 Days – Day 1

Normally, I don’t like to talk about my dreams.  Norman Mailer once said, “A novel is like a secret affair, you don’t bring other people in on it.” It’s not just novels.  It applies to every working project in life.  Once others are in on it, then the secret it out.  All then, it just isn’t the same after that.

So, here we go:

My Life’s Dreams

  • Have two children:   Originally, when I wrote this down over fifteen years ago, this was have four kids.  Then, just after I squeezed Beast out, I asked Xan if having one child would be fine with him.  Much to my current chagrin, he agreed.  But, doesn’t every parent want to have one of each?  In a way, I think it would be the most fulfilling parenting experience.  Truly, I would actually prefer to have two boys.
  • Write a novel / book:   This is probably on everyone’s bucket list, so I’ll leave this one alone.
  • Fall in one of the Three Rivers:   I’ve lived on two different rivers here in Pittsburgh.  There is the Allegheny, which comes from the Northeast.  Then, the Monogahela comes from the Southeast.  And they meet at the GolThe Falls of the Ohio Riverden Triangle, which is known to the rest of the United States as Downtown Pittsburgh to make the Ohio River.

    Ruby is going to yell at me for this one.  Remember how I said I was going to walk into the river from the North Shore River walk?  That’s the Allegheny River.  Well, we live over by the airport now, so we live by the Ohio.  And, there’s this nice little dock off the west shore at this great bar we live near.  I promise, there will be eight people there to either throw me in or fish me out.  I’ll let you know.

    And it can’t be that nasty.  To let everyone know of my previous location, I’ve been in Chartiers Creek before.

  • Make and sell my own crafts:   This one is all about finding the time and the money for the materials.  I think it would be seriously fun.
  • Be an extra in a movie / TV show:   Pretty self-explanatory.  I know, I know.  But, The Dark Knight Rises was just filmed there last year!  Or, couldn’t you have tried out for Idol last year too?  Yes.  But, even though I was actually in the city while it was being filmed, I was also teaching summer semester.
  • Become a full-time teacher:   I am a little too old for the when I grow up dreams.  Well, are we ever, really?  I just have to decide whether I want to go to school for Early Childhood Education or just plain Education?  I love children of all ages, so that’s going to be tough.
  • Get my Master’s Degree:   ‘Nough said on that.  I have my choice of various different kinds of Education I could be studying.  Personally, I don’t want to teach Special Education.  To be fair, I think I have had enough of Special Education in my life.  Both my brother and my son have various degrees of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It is something very difficult to have in your life as a constant, and I’d like to keep home and home, and work at work.
  • Watch every episode of Doctor Who:   Growing up, Doctor Who was a constant in my home.  I 10th doctoreven remember not liking the series as a child.  There were the silliest reasons too.  First, it came on during one of my cartoons.  It also hailed the nightly “grown up TV time”.  The effects were cheesy.  And last of all, it was not a cartoon at all.  It wasn’t until the second series that I actually fell in love with the show.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember Tom Baker.  I actually liked the 4th Doctor.  He was funky and kind of New Age for his time.  That’s why, when the 10th Doctor came around, David Tennant, I was hooked.  He is just an amazing man.  And, he helped fortify the hypothesis I have about my inexplicable love for men I didn’t originally know were Scotsman anyway.

  • Have a stable episode for longer than six months:   Okay, I’ve done three months before.  I think it would be great to be able to live in a period of time without symptoms.  Even if it’s just once, I want to be able to live it to know what it’s like.
  • Cover all songs written by A Perfect Circle in a bar:   Currently working on this one.

Maybe it doesn’t look as if I’m shooting high.  But, that’s the thing about dreams.  If you shoot for the moon, you’ll land in the stars.  Well, guess what?  I want that moon, even if it’s not completely full.  Get it?

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Psychiatric Disorders

Most of my research in the past has been centered around affective disorders, theories surrounding the causation of dysfunction, and the cognition / behaviors that sustain it. I am broadening my horizons to include many mental health disorders and developmental disorder, particularly autism.

I have had a theory for awhile that hinged almost completely on curious connections I’ve made between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors ruminated on the potential for my father and bipolar disorder. By the way my parents describe his mother, it didn’t seem surprising.

We’ve always assumed that my “affective disorder” (assumed Major Depressive Disorder in my teens) was a result of my father. Assumptions are changing around parents house in light of serious mental health symptoms popping up on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother has “dementia”, politely termed to describe her psychosis. And my aunt who cares for her has developed paranoid delusions. She has isolated herself, because she is sure that the family is “against” her and consorting with one another behind her back.

These things don’t come out of nowhere. They become present after certain events happen, whether they are biochemical or a result of external stressors.

So, why is it that two parents with suspected “affective” disorders bear one child with moderately severe classical autism and another with bipolar disorder? Another generation passes. Two parents, one with an affective disorder and another with a mental health disorder, both with psychotic features, bear a child with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder : Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified?

I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about my husband’s disorder. I have determined that it is up to him; it is his own business, and it is best for his mental health to know that I am only vaguely referring to it as a “disorder”. I will leave it at that.

We have actually been speaking now, sometimes at great length concerning symptoms, dysfunction, and identifying with one another. Many of these symptoms seem to revolve around sensory disturbances. For me, I’ve gone to great length to describe times of sensory overload caused by a removal of a “sensory filter”. It’s a chicken and the egg conundrum. Does the emotional disturbance make me more susceptible to the sensory integration and processing dysfunction or vice versa?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of literature on sensory integration dysfunction and mental health disorders. However, there is a wealth of it, as it is considered a component of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It is thought that the main feature, besides pervasive behaviors, is sensory integration dysfunction / disorder. It is observed that children with ASD fall into categories of sensory “seekers” or “avoiders”. Seekers are thought to have dampeners on sensory imput. Avoiders are opposite and have a sensory overload. But, in most cases, there is usually a combination of the two. Some seeking and some avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance is considered the most recognized behavior, as it is considered the most dysfunctional.

I can only speak for me. In episodes of hypomania, I become a seeker. One would think there should be an avoidance, but in hypomania, I cannot get enough. My brain eats it at hyperspeed and processes it just as fast.

However, mania is a different story. Often, sensory stimuli overloads an overly active mind. It makes manic symptoms worse. Sometimes, the racing thoughts become fragmented and my thinking becomes disordered. My speech becomes disrupted and incoherent, because the intergation of external stimuli cannot be effectively integrated. And an overload occurs.

In psychotic states, the sensory stimuli becomes confused and distorted. Places and people may become foreign and strange. Hallucinations can occur, distorting sensory stimuli even further. And delusions are fed by misinterpreted stimuli.

Mixed states are the worst. As everyone knows, a mixed state is probably the most unstable a person with bipolar disorder can get. Sensory stimuli is integrated, but poorly. The cognitive associations are often misinterpreted and can spark even worse symptoms.

A sensory overload is common in this state. The internal struggle is enough to shy away from anything stimulating, because of the cognitive inability to process it properly.

I’m still working on interpreting mixed states, the dysfunction, and how I experience it. The problem I face is that many new symptoms I did not expect surfaced at the same time.

Moving to depressive states. I find that I am often very easily overstimulated, though my mental state is dulled. My mind suffers a certain retardation of congitive and physical function. The problem the occurs is the foggy state makes the processing of stimuli difficult. It deepens emotional distress when presented with too much. I simply do not have the processing speed.

So, there are several functions that cause the dysfunction. There are a few facts that remain. I am an auditory avoider when I am unable to process external stimuli due to aggitated or foggy states. I am a tactile seeker in these states, with the explicit exception of psychosis. In (hypo)manic states, I am a motion seeker, as it calms. In depressive states, I am a motion avoider, but a visual seeker. Contrastingly, I am a visual avoider in (hypo)manic and psychotic states.

I could go on from there, but I won’t. I am more inclined to seek input from others. Examine your behaviors of seeking and avoidance. What do you find?