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.

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Flirting with Suicide

Warning: This post has strong themes of suicide and self-injury within. It may contain potential triggers. Reader discretion is advised.

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2007, it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths.1

An estimated 11 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.1

Essentially, statistics indicate that there are 380,578 reported cases of attempted suicide each year.  Personally, I see this as a gross underestimate.  The botched attempts are the ones that end up in the hospital.  But what about the folks who take a handful of pills, pass out, and wake up like nothing happened the very next day?  It is in my personal experience, as a person who has never ended up hospitalized by a suicide attempt, that I would jump that number up by at least 20 times the amount of completed suicides.

Today is suicide prevention day.  And today, I wanted to bare my soul and share my sordid past with suicide attempts.

Is suicide common among children and young people?

In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.1 Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:1

  • Children ages 10 to 14 — 0.9 per 100,000
  • Adolescents ages 15 to 19 — 6.9 per 100,000
  • Young adults ages 20 to 24 — 12.7 per 100,000

I started in the earliest age group.  I was a deeply troubled young teenager.  I have only written about this in a personal journal, but I feel it’s time to share.

It was a warm March Friday, humid after a fresh rain.  I was rather excited for that Friday, because it would have been the first Friday I was released from my grounding since January.  It was the truth that my grades had slipped into the toilet.  But, so had my mental health.  I dressed in my funeral best daily.  Every single day was a day that I had wished, nay, prayed for death.  Only a merciful God would release me from this suffering, I thought constantly.  And as a result of my downward spiral, I felt the entire verbally abusive arsenal my parents had to offer.

Another bad progress report.  I was failing math and gym.  Truthfully, I wasn’t good at math.  And what teenage girl in the entire world wants to be seen in front of all of her peers in a swimsuit?  My “excuses” fell on deaf ears.  This warranted more time in isolation.  I begged.  I pleaded.  Just this one Friday, and then I will begrudgingly accept my punishment.  I had surely earned it, after all.

I was berated for not trying hard enough.  “Are you lazy or stupid?  I can’t decide anymore.”  The words stung, like a clean slap across the face.  I lost my temper and started to storm up the stairs.  I called back to my father, “You’re an asshole.”

“Get your little ass back down here!”

I glanced backward to see the furious, crazy look in his eyes.  But, I was beyond caring.  I was beyond fear anymore.  I continued up the stairs as he screamed after me.  Do your worst.

“You little bitch, come down here and face me!” he challenged.

I did.  He grabbed my by my collar and snatched me up so close to his face that he spat every angry word at me.  “Come on.  Take a shot.  The first one is free.”

I knew better.  If I were to take the shot, that would justify any beating I would have received after that.  I was only 4’9″, and he towered over me at a grand 6’3″.  I was a little girl in comparison to this adult man.  I stared into his eyes defiantly, gnashed teeth and a snarl.  I never lost his gaze in that moment.  I refused.

With one twist of his arm, he dragged me down the last three stairs.  Violently, he pulled me into the air by my collar and thrust me into the kitchen wall.  I was terrified, but I would never show it.  I would not give him the satisfaction.  I looked behind him to see my mother standing there, doing nothing to help me.  She looked at me with these vindictive eyes and a satisfied face.  He screamed in my face about disrespect, what an ungrateful piece of shit I was, and how I didn’t even deserve all of the things they had given me.  I started to lose my air as my collar choked me.  I panicked, as I started to black out.  His words faded.  I closed my eyes.

Thud.  He dropped me three feet to the floor, and I hit the ground hard.  I crumpled onto myself as he stormed off.  I looked up at my mother who was looking down at me.  And without a word, she walked away.  My last hope of salvation had betrayed me.  And I curled into a ball and cried.

(This part I have to omit because it is going to be in a future installation of “The Friday Confessional”.)

After I had been dragged home, I took refuge in my room.  All hope was lost.  There was no escape.  There was no one who could save me from this.  There was only one way out.

I went into the medicine cabinet and grabbed an entire bottle of Advil and another of Tylenol.  I washed it down with another bottle of Nyquil and waited on the edge of the bathtub.  This was going to be my way out.  If God wasn’t going to come to my rescue, and the authorities felt this was a gross exaggeration of the truth, then I would take matters into my own hands.  Let me be damned to eternal hell.  It couldn’t be much worse than this.

I filled the tub and waited some more.  I undressed.  This should make the cleanup convenient, I thought to myself.  I sure didn’t want my death to be a major inconvenience.   Everyone would celebrate my departure.  Everyone would be happier without me.

Botched.  I woke up a few hours later and crawled into my bed for warmth.  And I slept for over 24 hours.  No one took any kind of note at the missing medications or my inexplicable hypersomnia.

That was the first in dozens of attempts to take my own life.  At the young age of thirteen.  The idea of suffering the abuse and neglect of my parents for the next five years until I was a legal adult was too much to bear.  And I was absolutely convinced that I would be dead by my seventeenth birthday at the rate I was going.  I had tried so many times that I eventually started calling it, “Flirting with Suicide”, just because there was something of a romance between it and me.

And every single attempt was the best I could possibly manage with the materials provided.  I suppose a person can call that parasuicidal if they choose.  Maybe it was.  I’m not sure anymore.

I’m nearly twenty-eight now.  All of that was nearly fifteen years ago.  And the last time I attempted suicide was over a year ago, a few days before I started writing As the Pendulum Swings.  In that year, I learned that I had a relapse back into a more serious cervical cancer.  And it dawned on me that there was a possibility that I could one day die from it.  I had resigned myself to life.  If I couldn’t die on my own terms, a survivor of multiple attempts, then I would live.

In the end, I chose to live.

What are some risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts?

  • As noted, an estimated 11 nonfatal suicide attempts occur per every suicide death. Men and the elderly are more likely to have fatal attempts than are women and youth.1
  • Risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts by adults include depression and other mental disorders, alcohol and other substance abuse and separation or divorce.5,6
  • Risk factors for attempted suicide by youth include depression, alcohol or other drug-use disorder, physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior.6,7
  • Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental-health treatment.

Educate yourselves.  Realize that every suicide attempt is serious and should be treated immediately.  Realize that suicidal gestures, ideation, and plans are all extremely serious and significant.  And find the courage to find yourself, a family member, or a friend immediate treatment.  Suicide is completely preventable when people are educated.

Thank you for reading.  Take care.

Invitations to Narnia : 30 Days of Truth

Day 05 : Something you hope to do in your life.

As it stands, one can find me within the wardrobe amongst the coats, between the real world and my Narnia. This is not the Narnia as others know it. It is the absolutely surreal, ever shifting landscape, containing both horrific monsters and beautiful, majestic creatures. All of that world is tucked away, within a wardrobe, in an innocuous cranny of my home. Many unsuspecting people could stroll up to it, jam their coat in, and never give this unassuming wardrobe another thought.

Lunaria

But, this world is not meant to exist tucked away.  This world lives inside of me, wrapped up in an old world map, tied with a satin ribbon.  It waits to unfurl for all of the world to see.

Snapshots of this map are contained within every word, in each piece that I carefully create.  Some have been privy to view them, scanning the terrain, gazing upon the horrors and magesty.  Others have been lucky enough to set foot on the Terra Amici, The Land of Friends, specifically set aside to welcome guests who have braved the Sea of Aliquim.  And others, those closest to me, have journeyed through the deepest, darkest places of Lunaria.

I dream of the day that I allow Lunaria to emerge from the wardrobe.  This is the day that the earth will quake around me to birth Lunaria from within.  I will invite others to explore at will, without the requirement of the confines to Terra Amici.  To brave the fiery mountains, volcanoes spewing molten rock,shifting and shaping the landscape daily.  The mountains grow higher, only to be whittled away by the erosion.  Bask in Bad Wolf Bay.  Peer deeply into Mare Demersi, but still fear to tread too closely.  Lose themselves in Vac Saltus, and navigate the sullen, sunken lands of Val Mergullado.

All of this, one day will be accessible to all.  Lunaria will rise.  I can openly narrate the tales and history of Lunaria without fear of persecution and ostracism.  I hope to accomplish my quest of bringing this all out of the wardrobe.  I want others to see what my world, one world of a woman with Bipolar Disorder looks like.  It possibly connects to other places, to weave a global patchwork of personal worlds, connecting us all, to encompass every single person who has been hiding their own Narnia.

I hope to have a voice that can bring this all to the world.  And I hope to build the strength to do it.

Disorder and Love: What We Do and Don’t Know

“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they got” –Author Unknown

Mental health disorders have a way of putting blinders on a person. I have to say, there are a lot of things in this world that I miss. Whether it’s because I’m wrapped up in my own head, or I have one of the different shades of the multiple pairs of glasses I don on, I know that my own perceptions are often distorted. In short, I miss things. Sometimes, I miss very important things.

I am not one to take a hint. So, one of those subtle things, such as love, often slip past me or whiz over my head.

How do we love?