You Have Problems

My daughter had a friend over last week. They were playing in her room when I heard the friend say, “You have problems.” My daughter responded with an amused, “No, I don’t.” and continued to play. The friend repeated it a few more times. “You have problems.”

“No, I don’t have problems.”

“Yes you do have problems. My mom told me you have problems.”

I was sitting in the living room listening to this exchange with my gut slowly shriveling up inside me with hurt and dread and guilt. What do you say in that kind of situation? I called the friend into the living room and politely asked her to stop saying that to my daughter and that if she continued to say it, I would send her home. The friend meekly complied. For about 2 minutes. Then I heard some furious whispering and my daughter burst out of her room crying, ran down the hall and out the door. I ran after her, worried and upset for her. She told me she didn’t want to play with her friend anymore because she was being mean. I wasn’t sure what to say to her, so I thought about what I would do if someone was being mean to me in my own house.

“If your friend continues to be mean and you don’t want to play with her anymore, you can ask her to go home. You don’t have to play with friends who are mean to you.” I wasn’t sure if she’d do it. My daughter’s self-esteem is low and she is so social and loving that she puts up with a lot from other kids for the chance to play with them.

I sat back down in the living room. Playing commenced. About 2 minutes went by when the friend whispered something else and my daughter said, in a clear and loud voice, “You’re being mean and I want you to go home.”

The friend left the house crying and I called her mom to let her know she was walking home (a few houses down) and why she was crying. I can describe the conversation with one word: awkward. When I hung up with the mom, I was still upset. Not at the friend, or even at the mom who told her daughter that my kid had problems, but just generally upset that this was probably just the tip of the iceberg to come. Being hurt by your friends sucks. Watching your child get hurt by her friends sucks about a thousand times more.

That night while I was making dinner, my daughter sat down at the table and asked me if she had problems.

“Do you think you have problems?” I countered.

“No.”

“Then you don’t have any problems.” And I meant it. Because, who doesn’t have problems? If you feel good about yourself and you are functioning well in society, you’re doing just fine. And if anyone tells you otherwise, just tell them to go home.

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The Ride is Over

rollercoasters in cities venice frozen over nois7 surreal photos images manipulations RThe roller coaster goes up. And then it comes down.

I hit my emotional limit last month dealing with my child’s mental health issues. Five weeks later and I feel like I’m sitting on the bench watching the rides from a distance. With a correct diagnosis, we have received more help and support from the “system” than I even knew existed. We started a mood stabilizer that has changed the lives of everyone in my house. We are receiving In Home Support from 2 Master’s Level LCSWs who call themselves Behavior Health Professionals, or BHPs, 10 hours per week.

I have a Case Manager who has been educating me on all of the programs and resources available to our family. She does all the research and paperwork and we are reaping the benefits. My daughter got a scholarship to take Therapeutic Horseback Riding lessons at a local farm. We are looking into other social activities for her as well. Although, I must say, one activity at a time is all we’re taking on at the moment.

On one hand, I have been super busy implementing all the treatment plans we have been given, juggling appointments and blocks of time the BHPs are here. We still have day camp, trips to the beach, trips to the lake, bike riding, hiking, and spending time with friends. (My kids, not me, unfortunately.) On the other hand, my life hasn’t been this calm in a long time. I’ll take calm and busy any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

The biggest miracle that has occurred from all this? My daughter is SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!! Ever since we started the mood stabilizer, everyone in the house is getting continuous sleep at night. It may not sound like much when compared to the other improvements in behavior and mood, but let me tell you, I am a better person and a better parent after 5 weeks of being able to sleep through the night. This is the first time in six and a half years that I have felt rested.

Only three more weeks until school starts! This mama, as calm as she is, is really ready for the fall.

Welcome to Boringville

I’ve been taking a trip to Boringville the last week or two. The weather has gotten colder and my daily activities have been reduced to scheduling doctor appointments around my daughter’s bus schedule.

On the good side, I started a new medication that has really helped with my anxiety. I was feeling like a bubbling cauldron of panic that would rise up and burn everyone around me at the slightest provocation. And all the provocation seems to come from one small 5 year old. So I am feeling calmer and hopefully my interactions with my child won’t be so eruptive.

On the bad side, if there is a bad side to being calm, I feel like I’ve become very boring. All I really want to do is get my errands run, keep up with my housework and read some books. Gives a gal a lot to talk about, doesn’t it? I have no knowledge of current pop culture as I don’t watch TV. I have no real knowledge of current events, because I don’t watch the news or read anything other than the local paper. I’ve simplified my life to the point that I can enjoy my daily life and my family. There’s nothing outside the realm of my family life that I worry about anymore, or really concern myself with. My simple life has made me feel calm and secure. Peaceful, if you will. But also pretty boring.

Was being depressed and anxious what gave me a personality? God, I hope not. But I do feel a little more bland. My inner drama queen has quieted. She made me dramatic and funny and gave me something to say. And she also made me worry and panic and feel generally miserable. So I’ll take the blandness and keep my seat on the train to Boringville. It’s nice to not have my panties in a twist about everything in life.

I Thirty-hate Thirty-Eight

I’m another year older. It’s not like 38 is a milestone birthday or some societal harbinger of doom, but I wasn’t looking forward to this birthday. Now that it’s passed… I’m still not too thrilled about it. Every year I think, “Hey, you’re only as old as you feel and half the time I still have to call my dad to ask him how to do something. That makes me young, right?” Right?

This year, I’m feeling my age. Maybe it’s why 38 hasn’t wowed me so far. You would think that the under 40 crowd wouldn’t have arthritis aches and pains, bodily shit getting out of whack if you barely exert yourself beyond your normal limits, or, *gasp* hormonal craziness making you feel like menopause is breathing down your neck. Nothing makes a gal feel like she’s old as much as the thought of menopause on the horizon. I thought I was cool with the reality that my childbearing days are behind me, but today it kind of hit me for some reason. I’m not going to have any more children. Not because I don’t want to, but because I physically can’t. And whether that reason is because of my age or for no logical reason at all, it makes me feel old and even a little unfeminine. It makes no sense; I realize that. I don’t want to start all over again with sleepless nights and diaper changes, but the fact that my body made the choice to stop at two makes me feel defective somehow, like my body is breaking down and everything that makes me a woman is shriveling up and dying.

Thirty-eight is too young for this. I mean, I still have 29 years until I hit retirement age. In my head, I should be pain free and physically perfect. I should be like Michelle Duggar, spitting out kids into my 40s and never raising my voice or complaining about anything. Okay, back up. I lost my mind for a minute there. There’s no way I can go through life without raising my voice. Let me shout it out then, a sort of therapy if you will: I thirty-hate thirty-eight! I’m young dammit!

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A Lesson on Bad Behaviors

Well, I made it through the two hour long appointment with the Behavior Specialist yesterday afternoon. Luckily I took a xanax before I left so I was feeling very calm when Caylie was spinning the doctor’s chair around and lowering her chair while she was typing her notes. And pulling on the doctor’s hair while laughing hysterically and trying to grab the doctor’s feet while Caylie hid behind the doctor’s chair, just out of reach.

Oh the things you learn about when you have children! Like, did you know that there is no such thing as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) anymore? Nope. Now there is only Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This didn’t make sense to me until I learned that there are three different classifications of ADHD: Inattention, Hyperactivity – Impulsivity, or both combined.

In addition to these wonderful facts, I learned that for all children diagnosed with ADHD, 2/3 of them are also suffering from another disorder. Like a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder or other antisocial personality disorders.

After 2 hours, the doctor (should I even use her title initials BS?) told me that while she isn’t ready to officially diagnose Caylie with anything right this moment, Caylie is exhibiting the characteristics of ADHD Inattention with some combined Impulsivity as well as a possible mood disorder. And she hasn’t taken Oppositional Defiant Disorder off the table yet either. I have two very long questionnaires to fill out that are more specific to Caylie’s age and gender. And both her former teacher and her future Kindergarten teacher will have to fill out similar questionnaires.

The thing I found most interesting was all the questions I was asked about Caylie’s birth and her subsequent resuscitation. What were the circumstances surrounding her resuscitation? How long were the nurses performing CPR before she took her first breath? Did they intubate her? How long before I was able to see her? Was she still getting oxygen at that point in time? Mike and I have always wondered if any kind of oxygen loss at birth could have been the cause of all of Caylie’s behavioral issues. Now I feel like maybe our gut instincts have been right all along. Not that it changes anything, but its just one more example of how right on a parent’s instincts can be regarding their child.

I don’t know why, but I feel slightly relieved by what the specialist told me. Maybe because I can understand where some of this behavior is coming from? Because its not my fault? Because there could be a chance to treat the symptoms? I’m leaning toward all three of those reasons. Even though the idea of possibly medicating a 5 year old child bothers me, if it can stop some of the insanity in my house, I say, “Bring it on!”

Insane in the Membrane

Today has been one of those days. Actually, this whole week has been one of those weeks. My daughter is driving me out of my mind. She has been since birth. I’m convinced its her life’s purpose and I’m living out my penance for some long-forgotten wrong-doing.

A month or two ago, my family was hanging at my brother’s house with his family and we were discussing my daughter. My brother was talking about how he felt lucky because his kids were such good babies. Someone made a joke about my daughter and my brother said, “I’m surprised she’s still alive! I’ve never seen a baby like that!” Of course we all laughed because she was, truly, a very difficult, constantly crying, never sleeping baby. And that baby has grown into a very defiant, constantly crying, never sleeping little girl. My brother’s joke, though, made me feel validated. Because sometimes my husband and I can’t believe we made it through the first year of her life.

At the end of May, I saw a headline that caught my eye: Man Arrested For Putting Baby in a Freezer. A sad story, but its not the first of its kind. And the saddest part is that even though I think it was a horrible crime and I would never condone it, I understood what was going on in that man’s head. Maybe just a little. Because parenting a high-needs child can literally drive you mad. Being sleep deprived, grubby from your lack of time to shower, hungry for more than a handful of something out of a box while you walk and rock your baby across the room and then listening to the piercing, shrieking cries of your baby – the never ending, blood pressure-raising cries… it can make you temporarily insane. I know it. I’ve felt it.

I’m still feeling it from time to time. I’m not the only one. My husband came into our room last evening where I was hiding from my children resting and said to me, “can we give her up for adoption?” We weren’t laughing this time. I cried. I can’t cope with my own child and it makes me feel like a failure. I know I’m not a failure, but it still makes me feel like one. On Monday, I am taking Caylie to see a Behavior Specialist. We have been waiting for a year to see this woman. When I approached my pediatrician almost 2 years ago about the behaviors that are making us batty, she sent us to a sleep specialist. (Did I mention my kid still can’t sleep through the night? Yeah, she’ll be 6 this winter.) Then, when that didn’t help, we were referred to a Behavior Specialist who had a year long wait list. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but I pray to God that something changes.

I was reading an article last night about how to teach our defiant children healthy obedience and it just made me depressed. Because everything about parenting requires the parents to be the ones who change all their behaviors in order to get the kind of behaviors they want from their child. I’m exhausted. I just don’t have the energy or even the desire at this point to put my nose to the grindstone and “re-train” my kid in how to behave. Or how to sleep. Or how to control her emotions. Or how to pick up on social cues. Someone save me! Where’s Superman when you need him? I’m going to go dress up like Lois Lane and hang out outside. Hopefully he’ll come fly me away for the weekend. (I’ll take either Henry Cavil or Tom Welling, I’m not that picky.)

A Letter to my 9 year-old Self

I woke up this morning to a broken microwave. Normally, I would just go out and buy a new one, but I just bought that microwave in April. I called the manufacturer’s warranty customer service line, described what’s wrong and was told to return it and get a new one. Ya think? The nice girl at the Target service desk told me that if I brought the microwave in without the box (since it was trashed) and I had the receipt, they would exchange it.

This prompted a mad search for a receipt from April. I dug through the little trash can in the office. No receipt. Then I searched my purse. No receipt. A lightbulb went on over my head. My spring purse! (I have a little pocketbook problem in which I like to have one for each season.) So into the master bedroom closet I went. Once upon a time, I was a Thirty-One consultant so I have a plethora of purses stashed in my closet. I started to go through the massive piles of pocketbooks. One of my bad habits when changing out my purse is that I leave all the papers and junk in my purses when I switch to a new one. What started as a simple search for a receipt became a full-blown trip down memory lane complete with an empty trash bag (I was multi-tasking) and a closet that looked like it had vomited all over my bedroom floor.

I found all kinds of stuff, including receipts – some dated as far back as 2007. But no receipt from April for my new microwave. Instead, I found a letter I wrote 3 years ago. To my 9 year-old self. I don’t even remember writing it, so it kind of freaked me out to see yellow-lined notebook paper with my handwriting that started, “Dear Tammy.” (Notice by my use of my old nickname just how long I’ve known myself.)

(Note: Wondering why I wrote to my 9 year-old self? When I was 9, my mother tried to commit suicide. It was then that she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.)

“Dear Tammy, 

I was thinking about you today. It’s about time that I wrote to you. I’ve put it off for years because what should I say to a 9 year-old who is going through the things that you are? First thing: you will survive this. You are a survivor. You don’t feel the strength you possess, but it’s there inside of you. That strength will lift you up and keep your feet moving ahead even when you don’t want to.

The things you dream of are possibilities just waiting for you. Remember why Cinderella is your favorite Disney movie? Because “dreams are a wish your heart makes” and wishes can come true. If you make them. Wishes may not be granted by a wand-toting fairy godmother, or just magically happen for you, but know that you can have or do anything that you dream. You have the capability, the drive, the brains. Stop doubting yourself. It’s okay to love yourself. It’s also okay to forgive.

Your family loves you. Life is confusing right now – scary. But you will never be alone; you only feel that way now. Adults make mistakes, Tam. I know it’s hard to believe, but even as infallible as adults seem – as parents seem – they can and will make mistakes. But those mistakes belong to them, not you. The consequences will affect you, but they are not because of you. Keep that in your heart, Tammy.

When you are feeling scared and alone, angry and confused, remember that you are loved. The things you dream about will come true. You will make a wonderful life for yourself. You will love your life.

Thinking of you with love,

Tamara, your 34 year-old self”

Wow. That kinda made me cry. Who knew my 34 year-old self was so introspective and eloquent. This letter was my coolest find of the day. That and the 5 dollar bill in an old birthday card.

If you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself, what do you think you’d say? What age of your former self would you pick?