Mental Health, Parent Coaching, Parent Mentoring, Parent Support

I turned into a sloth…

For the past two weeks I have been in a full blown sloth mode. My days of getting up naturally at 6am, hopping in the shower, and starting my list of tasks was abandoned. The other members of my family saw no need or urgency to accomplish anything within a time line, either for the day or week; and in reality, why should they have.

However, for me to not have a daily schedule or purpose results in me having zero motivation to do anything, and as a result everything started to look grey and dull. Definitely not the way I am used to seeing the world. My world is generally filled with joy and happiness and an occasional rainbow shooting out someones a**. My husband calls me a freakin’ Pollyanna, because I can see goodness in almost anything. I can be annoyingly optimistic.

  • My kid is struggling- “We will get through it”
  • My husband lost his job- “We will be okay”
  • Unemployment reviewing a claim- “It will all work out for the best”
  • Waiting for someone to respond to me- “I am sure there must be a valid reason”

That is until two weeks ago. After several months of this living with non-urgency crew (husband and two teens) I gave up my strongly maintained and structured schedule, and adopted the it will eventually get done attitude. This is great for a vacation, but not good for everyday life. I found my self lounging in my pajamas until noon watching the television or doing something inane like playing games on my ipad, or watching crazy people on TikTok.

I didn’t see any urgency in doing laundry, nor yard work, or anything else, as it would all get done eventually, right? Well, because of my new “attitude” the last two weeks have been the blahest of the last three months.

I need a schedule. I need a purpose. I need structure. I need to be doing something to push me forward. I now have a better understanding of how hard it is for our teens to have a sense of urgency about anything, when to them there is no immediate purpose. Why get up at 8am if there is no where to go or to be. The level of what appeared to be laziness, but I think was really apathy, eventually wore me down and I joined them.

Just this week I voiced to some friends that I have been the least productive person in the last two weeks, I felt like a slow moving no motivated sloth. Only after repeating it a few times did I realize that I had to snap out of it, and get myself back into a routine. While my family could live without urgency or a schedule, I just couldn’t.

So this week was a new start. Back to getting up early, making a To Do list and getting stuff done like the timeliness mattered. I realized, it does matter. It matters to me. I am not good being a slow moving sloth. So I have to say I feel like my old self again. I have purpose, even if that purpose is getting stuff done around the house, based upon my own personal timetable.

My mood is better, I feel human again and I feel like I have a purpose. I am back to being the me I like.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

I have searched and searched and to the best of my knowledge “Quirky” is not in the mental health diagnostic manual. So I would very much like social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, teachers, priests or even the garbage man to stop telling me, “Don’t worry he is fine, he is just ‘QUIRKY”. I swear I was going to rip off their lips so they could never speak again.

My mother’s intuition runs deep, and often I question it because field experts, (okay maybe the garbage man, wasn’t considered a field expert, but the rest of them were in my mind), would provide information that while technically correct, just didn’t “feel” like it was spot on for my kid.

My “gut” was only capable of telling me something was off, it didn’t allow me to know what the “off” was. Very early on in the game of parenting our pediatrician shared the one thing he learned very early in his 50 year plus practice. Listen to a mother, she knows her child.

He explained “Most often I can diagnosis solely upon what a mother reports, I then do a physical exam to confirm what I am thinking. He said, “never doubt your mothers intuition, more often than not will be right.” Thank you Dr. Kolsky, words to live by, and they probably saved our sons life.

My son was a c-section baby because he was breech, in retrospect I should have known the future was going to be dicey, he obviously wasn’t ready to meet the world and literally put his feet out to stop it. Despite his in-utero gymnastics, he was born healthy, and general was a very easy baby, this kid was totally playing me, I now know.

The mother’s intuition kicked in when he was a toddler. He went through the terrible 2’s, but he was an overachiever at it. I always felt his responses were disproportional to the event, but then again everyone told me, he is a boy, he is toddler, relax, he is normal.

Yes, he was “normal”. He couldn’t be in a bathroom when you flushed the toilet, it was too loud. I know we had the “good toilets” the ones where you could flush golf balls down and all would be okay, but seriously it wasn’t that loud. He hated tags in his clothes and god forbid you try to alter a routine he went ape shit. If we said we were going to the playground he had to go, it didn’t matter that it was the middle of a hail storm. Flexible this kids was NOT. Motherhood wasn’t feeling so great to me. Where were those cute kids on the Toys R Us commercials, they were always happy.

He was strong willed, brilliant, and impulsive. I learned very quickly that if I didn’t have an eye on him at all times, it wasn’t going end well. I realized this during a routine visit to the CVS to pick up a prescription, for his then 6 week old brother, whom I was lugging around in that car seat carrier that felt like it weighed 200 pounds.

As you may know the pharmacy is always at the back of the store. So as I am picking up my prescription, he starts to move slowly to toward the entrance door. I told him, no stay with mommy. I am not kidding when I say he stopped, looked me dead in the eye, smirked, and ran like a bat out of hell toward the front door. My eyes became huge, and big ole post pregnancy c-section mom, dragging the car seat carrier, screaming, “Stop him”, at the top of my lungs while trying to catch up with him. He passed no less than three people who did nothing but watch him run, and then me plod after him. Do you know that little bugger made it out the front door, and as soon as his passed the sliding doors, he stopped and looked at me and smiled. Yeah he smiled alright, as I dragged him by the arm back to the pharmacy, and wondered what I did to deserve this.

Oh, it is funny I know, but repeat scenarios like this every day and it was exhausting, and not very funny. Not a week passed where my phone didn’t light up with the schools phone number. I will honestly tell you, I would stare at the number, and take a deep breath, and then put on the unconcerned mom voice for whoever was calling me; you pick, the nurse, the teacher, the principal, hey even the gym teacher got in on it. This kid living on the red in the light signal behavior charts.

If I felt like total crap, I could only imagine what he was feeling being in the direct path of all these people. By second grade he had developed a reputation as the difficult child. He would never get into real trouble but “quirky” trouble. He couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, he didn’t like to follow directions, especially if they didn’t make sense, in retrospect I see, he was me as a child.

The straw that broke the camels back involved chess of all things. Yes, chess the board game. We enrolled him in an after school chess class because he liked it and apparently was quite good at it. Unfortunately the rule was, you had to sit while you played, he couldn’t or wouldn’t. He liked to stand and watch others after he had his turn. He came home one day and announced he had been thrown out of chess, and he was to never ever ever come back.

Oh, my little drama queen. I told him of course Mr. X didn’t say that, I am sure he said something else. What 7 year old can get a story right, right? Ready for this, he didn’t. I called the chess teacher who confirmed almost verbatim what my child had reported. He said he can’t follow the rules and he is the most difficult child he has ever had, he is not permitted to return, nor enroll in any class he would teach again. OMG, talk about weighing a mother down, if I had a fainting couch I would have landed right on it. Okay, when your kid gets tossed from chess class, and that is the response, we are way, way beyond quirky. Something is wrong.

Solution oriented mom kicked into gear. I was going to find out what was going to get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, I almost destroyed our relationship in the process. We had him evaluated, and I was convinced he was, pick any of the diagnosis’s that were popular then; ASD, OCD, Aspergers, Autism, if Leprosy was one of them I would have thought he had that as well. I didn’t care what the diagnosis was, just tell me what it is so we can start to work on helping him and us. I believe not having a diagnosis is way harder than dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

His evaluation cleared him of every, including Leprosy. The result was a kid with an extremley High IQ, with a processing issue and Adhd. I was like, winner winner chicken dinner- my kid wasn’t stupid and we had a diagnosis. I was a mom on top of the world, waiving my hands in the air, saying oh yeah, oh yeah.

Now how do we fix this shit? So much easier said than done. Over the course of the next six years, we tried counseling, executive function coaching, processing coaching, parent training (oh that one wasn’t pretty at the time, lets just say I wasn’t very open to that one), mentors, yelling, screaming, punishing, acting like the police, threatening, and being everything but empathetic, compassionate or understanding. We tried every drug made for adhd, he would be a little better but never as good and I thought he deserved to be.

The next two years from 13 to 14 were wrought with oppositional defiance, destruction to walls and doors, verbal abuse, terrible family relationships, siblings hating each other, spouses hanging on for dear life, and me just wanting to run away. We tried to avoid family gatherings, it was too hard. Family members judged us to be horrid parents. We were constantly asked, why doesn’t he want to socialize with everyone else? Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that?

It became emotionally exhausting and hurtful and we started to retreat. The anticipation of the holidays and being subjected to the inquisition was overwhelming and depressing. I preferred my messed up little life to stay in the secret confines of my dysfunctional home. To say we were all at a point of not communicating would have been an understatement, we were living like people in a boarding house with a common kitchen. There was no talking, laughing, nothing, only venomous words between whomever was bold or stupid enough to speak out loud. In mere seconds we all turned to vultures attacking the speaker.

The unofficial motto of my family became, “Keep the Peace with him at all costs.” We walked on eggshells 24/7. This sucked, and the reality was, we weren’t even at rock bottom yet.

Mental Health, Parent Support

“Wilderness Therapy” does it really help anyone?

Have you even gone through such a life changing horrible event that you couldn’t imagine that there was one other soul “out there” who could possibly understand what you were feeling? Of course you have, we all have.

My “story” began when I was born and continues to this day, because clearly I am not dead. I have had many adventures and mishaps, all have shaped who I am, but the most profound moments have been wrapped up in being a mother to my sons.

I know there are tons of “blogs” by great moms, telling us how to be great moms, and even supporting us with wonderful quotes and pictures etc etc. I think that is awesome and often would look at these lifestyle parents in awe. I was jealous honestly that they were pretty and so pulled together and brilliant or any other positive words I could think of that day. That was not me by a long shot. I can describe myself a a dichotomy, outgoing but shy, bold yet easily intimated, very insecure, and desperately hating any form of change. Yup, I was a little “off kilter” I guess, but hey I am what I am.

I am the woman who when working full time, being married, and raising kids, was out of my freaking mind. I was always stressed, tired, overweight, anxiety ridden, and lots not forget to put impatient and angry put those on the list as well.

In retrospect I realize I didn’t do it well, I did it to the best of my ability that was for sure and I am not taking about the work or family individually, I am talking about balancing them together. I thought I did, I was a Rockstar at work, and because it was “easy” I continued to put my full force into it, who doesn’t want to feel successful, right? Well the one thing that I did not feel like I was good at or maybe confident, is a better word, was in my ability to be a Rockstar mom.

Thus the beginning of a very long journey that is still in progress today because I am a mom to two amazing young men, who I have never felt closer too, but it wasn’t always that way.

Life has a very funny way of altering our course doesn’t it. This is the story of the shift of the winds and the new life that was brought to me over the last two years.

My hopes in sharing are to help others not feel so alone, make you laugh, maybe sometimes cry, but always closing the computer feeling better about your circumstance than you did 5 minutes before.

So what was the big life changing event that occurred you want to know, well it was the dirty little secret of thousands of parents across the world. DRUM ROLL PLEASE: I had my at the time 14 year old son transported (aka Gooning, horrible name for great people) to a wilderness program in the woods of Georgia last year. We said very little to him that dark early morning, nothing more than you are going to Georgia to get some help. However the real dialog in my head sounded way more like this:

Surprise you little shit, these nice to men are here to escort you to the fucking woods, where you will stay until you get your head out of your ass because you are making me, and the rest of the family insane with your behavior and we have tried everything to help you and now it has come to this. I truly hope they can help you and us as a family because I don’t know what else to do, other than to stand by and hope you don’t die.

They took him at 5:30am, we were told to leave the house in-case he started screaming out an trying to negotiate with us. We picked up our sleeping other child and did what any parent in that situation would do, we got in the car and drove to a Dunkin Dounts, to feed our empty souls with coffee and donuts. Before we could get our coffee, the text came: He is fine, he did great. We are in the car on the way to the airport. We will be in touch when we board. This is it, we did it, what kind of horrible parents are we, having total strangers take our kid because we couldn’t manage him. What has our life become? We went back home and spent literally the remainder of the day in bed. My husband on one side, me on the other, and his traumatized brother in the middle. We were numb. It was May 19, 2018, the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markel got married. It was bad, we all sat in that bed for hours watching that wedding, we were so numb, we didn’t even think of changing the channel. Our new life was about to begin.

And you might ask, the significance of the title Letter to My Son. Well from that first day the only way we communicated was through letters, many many letters. These letters were profound on both our ends, opening and healing wounds that we knew existed and some we didn’t. I will share some of those with you, in hopes that somewhere someone can benefit from the journey we are on. Remember this:

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support, Teenagers

The positive of Covid-19. Are you experiencing it too?

We are in what I hope is the downward trend of this pandemic. Included in the numbers of infected, hospitalized, and dead, are family members of people I love and care about.

Covid-19 has brought many things to all of us; stress, anxiety,uncertain financial status, and massive unemployment. Undeniably this is all awful and people are scared.

However what we never hear about on the news broadcasts are the positive things that have occurred in families, and we aren’t talking about it because we feel guilty that something good is happening to us in the midst of all the uncertainty and sadness.

Covid-19 brought back a simplicity to our lives that many people were desperate for, and yet they had no idea they needed it so badly.

I haven’t been this calm, relaxed, or fulfilled in what seems like forever. You see my life went from what felt like driving a car at 70 mph to a screeching halt of a leisurely Sunday drive in about a minute.

At first it is weird, but now I like it. I am not stressed out that my kids will be brain dead from too many video games; as even they have became bored with them.

Lack of ability to socialize in groups has taught my children the pleasure and serenity of taking a walk, shooting hoops, and even laughing. It has taught my sons that while friends are important, you will always have your brother, and in quarantine that is really important.

We have had more meals as a family this month than we probably had in the last 2 years. A opportunity to connect and relax and laugh together.

My kids are relaxed as well. They don’t seem as stressed as when school is open in its traditional setting. While I am certain they aren’t learning as much as they would in a brick and mortar school, they are learning life skills that have fallen by the wayside because it was just easier to do it myself. Because parenting and teaching takes time and patients, of which many of us had little of driving at 70 mph.

The sunday drive has my kids very interested in what I am making for lunch and dinner because there aren’t many other options. They have even began to do some cooking themselves. And have even started to taste the food they are eating instead of just trying to inhale to get back to whatever they were doing.

I have had the opportunity to model doing hard stuff for my kids, and asked for their help. Yes, one mother and one 16 year old boy can carry a full size refrigerator and oven into the basement. Yes, one mother and one 14 year old boy can assemble 90% of a basketball system themselves. I have had them drilling and sawing, using wheelbarrow, and hedge clippers. I have been organically teach my kids how to make things as they embarked on building garden boxes so we can start our first garden.

They have learned the difference between needs and wants. Needs have us leaving the house, (toilet paper and groceries) and wants have us sticking home.

Tiktok isn’t as interesting to them right now because nobody is really doing anything, it is mostly exercising and dancing up steps. Since no one is out and about my teens are not suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Basically, Covid has forced us to figure out what is important and what’s not. I now know I have enough time in my day for all the important things, and enough energy left over to be the best mom, wife, and friend I can be. If I start piling on all those other things that used to suck up my time and stress me out, I will fail to be the person I desire to be. I only have so much time and energy in one day, and despite my thoughts of being Wonder Woman, I now know I am not.

So Covid-19, you nasty horrible virus, I never would have thought that you were going to teach me anything, and yet I am humbled enough to say you have.

I desperately want the spreading of sickness and death to stop, however I am equally desperate to not lose this feeling of connection, peace, and joy that I have found in a much more simplistic life for my family.

Stay safe.

Mental Health, Parent Support

Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Last night I was attending a Taco Tuesday women’s get together in my neighborhood. It was a night filled with good food, games, laughter, and some pretty amazing women.

My history with women wasn’t always pleasant. I found women to be catty, and backstabbing, and often out for their own good. Now I am not saying this is how all women are, it just seemed to be my experiences.

As I aged, I became wiser, less rigid and judgmental, and I also became more confident and a better judge of people. I found myself choosing to surround myself with some pretty fantastic women. Back when I lived in New Jersey I found a small group women with whom I bonded with on a spiritual retreat. We all clicked and to this day, despite the fact I moved across the country, I continue to feel as close to them as if I continued to live next door. We often referred to each other’s as “Sista’s” and yes that is how we spelled it. I am not 100% sure why, but I think that may have started because we performed a skit to the movie Sister Act and dressed up as Nuns or it could have been as “Sisters in Christ”. Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

So I moved to Utah, never thinking that I would find a group like that again. I was going to be open to new friendships, but honestly how likely would it have been for me to find that twice in my life.

Well I am overjoyed to say that I found a group of great women in Utah. How does this happen, am I so fabulous that people are dying to be my friend? Nope, not even close. I have figured out it has to do with a few simple things.

  • The First: The desire to be part of a group.
  • The Second: Give 100% and be vulnerable
  • The Third: Give much more than you take from the relationship.

Back to Taco Tuesday. One of the organizers of this event got up in front of about 35 women and explained with tears in her eyes why gatherings with women were so important to her.

She has a great husband and kids, but there is something about the power of women that is necessary for her. She also explained that sometimes the connection is not meant for you, but for you to pass along to someone in the future. She often jokes that the reason I ended up as her neighbor was because she needed me, little did she know how much I needed her.

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying my taco salad at a table where a teenage girl, about the age of 15 or 16 sat.

I laughed about how my anxiety was trying to convince me to bail on Taco Tuesday because I didn’t want to go in alone. I asked a friend for help and she offered to pick me up. And while some people might think my anxiety over such a simple thing is stupid and I should just get over it, it doesn’t work that way. I acknowledged my anxiety, I addressed it, and I worked through it with the help of others.

So after I finished telling my little story about how anxiety almost kept me from doing something I wanted to do, this young girl openly shared that she too suffered from anxiety and a few other things that always seem to hitch a ride on the anxiety train.

I gave her my full attention as I listened to her share what was going on with her life. As like many people with anxiety, we shared some of the same struggles; Adhd, anxiety, the inability to shut off our wandering minds, we wondered if everyone worried about stuff as much as we did, we used humor as a coping mechanism, and the list went on and on.

I shared some of my experiences as a teen, and the expression on her face was one of relief. She told me that while she could explain things to people she hadn’t found someone who truly understood it. We both described the inability to sleep at night because our minds raced, either anticipating the next day or re-living the one we just had, and the constant self doubt that plagued us.

All I kept thinking was, what would have happened had this dynamic young lady chose not share? She wouldn’t have learned that there are other people who understand what she is going through. Being a teenager is hard enough in this world without adding on diagnosis’. I didn’t solve her problems, because I can’t, however I did provide her with some comfort that it doesn’t always have to be this way. I also shared some tips and resources that I have gathered over the years.

We talked about sleep quite a bit, as it is so vital to being able to function, and it effects so many people, not just those with anxiety. I even shared my sleep routine, which to some might be weird, but includes; a sleep mask, a very cold room, some meditation, a scheduled sleep time and the mother of all things, a very expensive, but amazing weighted blanket.

I told her how impressed I was with her ability to be vulnerable and share with me, a virtual stranger. I shared that I only learned about my anxiety a few years ago. Had I chosen to share my feelings with people in my youth, things might have looked different for me. But you know what they say, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I was impressed with her ability to recognize it at a young age, and her desire to deal with it and ask for help. I was thrilled to see that she trusted her mom enough to share and confide in her, she has an ally in this journey.

Her mom made a conscious choice to listen and hear what her daughter was telling her. She didn’t dismiss it, she didn’t attribute it to hormones, she didn’t push her away and tell her to get over it, she didn’t think her younger kids needed her more. She listened and was ready to provide help.

Sometimes our kids just need us to listen and focus as much on what they are saying, as what they are not saying. As parent’s we have the tendency to focus on the parts that will set them up for the future, like school, staying out of trouble, sports, etc. Sometimes a parent needs to put all that stuff aside and focus on the core of the child. It is hard, very hard. I was the parent who was more concerned with grades, and appearances than I ever should have been. I got lucky, in that I learned our relationship trumps all else. Because I want my kid to trust me as much as this girl trusted her mom. For us, we are still working toward it, but it was very nice to see how it can be, it gave me the resolve not to give up.

People often suggest, actually they don’t suggest it, they say it outright; that I talk to much, or share to much, or I am just too much. Yeah, they are probably right most of the time, but not last night.

I make the choice to share, because I never know who I might help by sharing the story of my struggle, it might be directly for them, or it might be for them to share with someone they know at a later date. My simple hope in sharing is; maybe there is just one person out there who may have the chance to avoid the struggles I have had. So yeah, I am a blabber mouth, but I like me this way.

Later that evening, I hoofed a 25 pound pink weighted blanket around the corner and knocked on their door. I handed it to her and said, “Try it out for a few days and let me know what you think?

I slept great last night, because I was under my own weighted blanket. I wonder how she did? It’s pretty amazing that by sharing stories and feelings, your own weights can be lifted.

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