Tag Archives: Bipolar

While we’re here..

When I was a kid, trick or treating had some crazy traditions.

One neighbor made caramel apples for us.. but we had to come in for a visit. (Yes.. our mom was with us..)

Another stop gave full candy bars… but we had to tell a joke.

And yet another stop we had to tell a Bible verse.

Now after years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible school.. I knew a lot of verses.. but one that I loved to recite?

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

I know it doesn’t sound amusing.. but for a kid? Finding the shortest Bible verse seemed like a challenge…

…and…?

I got the same big treat as my siblings who recites longer verses…

But as I grew up?

That verse came to mean a lot to my heart.

You see?

My superpower is feeling other people’s emotions…

…and well?

I cry.

…I cry a lot…

For most of my childhood and teenage years? This embarrassed me … and I fought to control those tears.

But this verse? Jesus wept. It echoed through my mind every time I teared up. I mean? If it was ok for Jesus… a grown man.. to cry in public because He was sad? If it was acceptable for the Son of God to weep openly… even though he knew that God had everything under control? Even though He KNEW that everything would work together and be beautiful … in its time?

If it was ok for Jesus to weep … even though He hadn’t lost faith in God?

Then maybe.. just maybe…?

It was OK for me to cry when I was overwhelmed.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to speak at her church on Mother’s Day (..ha.. I know.. it was more than a few weeks…) about my experience in parenting. How parenting a strong willed, independent sassy daughter and a son with autism (and a side of mood disorders) changed my life.

My first response was… I can’t do that… I’ll cry… in front of a whole congregation of people…

… just like Jesus did…

Then my second response… what would I talk about? How do you take 21 years of trials… errors… tears… laughter… and love… and condense it into 20 minutes?

The day I was to speak at the church was the day before my son was scheduled to start “college”. The day before we were to move my son into a dorm and he was to begin his road to independence.

Sooo… it seemed fitting to talk about how we had moved on from each disappointment… toward hope and a future. How we had taken each path we were on and looked for some good that we could do while we were there.

So I based my message on my other favorite verse…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In front of this church congregation… I talked about how I had great plans for my life… plans to change the world… and how those plans did not turn out the way I had thought they would.

In fact?

My life was nothing how I planned.

I love my life… but it is not the life I had planned for myself.

Parenting is always a challenge.. whether it is a sassy, independent, strong willed daughter…. or a son with anxiety, autism and a mood disorder.

And… well?

I had both.

Every time that my life’s path took a wide turn and took me away from the plans I had made for me and my small family? I would remind myself of this verse.. that God has a plan for me..

.. promising me hope and a future…

So I had accepted each set of changes…

..but first?

First… I had cried.

Tears to grieve for the death of the plans I had made. I cried out all the frustrations from knowing that I had to change yet again…

and then?

Then I had wiped my tears and looked around… and I’d say to myself.. “While we are here, what good can we do?”

While we are in this new place.. with new plans… what good can we do..?

And yes… I cried…

The day after Mother’s Day?

The day after I spoke about hope and a future?

We took our son to his college. We followed the plans he had made for himself.

The first day of his bright new future…

And….

He didn’t make it.

Four years of planning, and in the matter of 24 hours?

All of our plans for the next year changed.

My son and I…. ?

… we wept….

We wept for our broke dreams… his dreams of going to college and staying in a dorm…. my dreams of seeing him independent … and my dreams of being free to start a career.

We wept.

Not knowing which way to go… and having to explore different paths…? We both felt a little lost…

…but we wiped our tears… and said… while we are here what good can we do?

Over and over this summer? Our paths have changed…

Over and over this summer? We have cried…

But today?

Today… as I feel the sunshine on my face? Today as I see some confidence seep back into my son’s face?

I am reminded once again that God has promised my son a hope and a future…

I am reminded that God has promised ME a hope and a future…

He didn’t promise me the future that I dreamed up for myself… but He promised me it would prosper and not harm me…

Sooo….

Let me dry my tears one more time….

…and see what good we can do….

While we are here…..

.. decades of work..

My son turned 20 today.

My baby boy.

My little man with autism and a side of mood disorder…

..is 2 decades old.

When I look at him it seems like yesterday that I started researching digestive disorders while my family .. slept.

It seems like just yesterday that I read every book on parenting kids with Autism.. and every book on Childhood Bipolar.. Reading 4 inch books on the “science of the chemistry of the mind”.. while my friends read a funny romance.

It seems like yesterday when I questioned whether I was doing a good enough job … with tears running down my face.

And I can remember it clearly when Simon leaned his head on my shoulder and said “With God, all things are possible.”

How is it possible that this young man has come so far?

No longer a boy that is silent.

No longer a boy that hides his face in my shoulder.

No longer a boy who watches from the doorway.

Here stands a boy that walks confidently through doors. A boy that sings in front of a whole auditorium of people.

Here stands a boy who easily orders his own food at a restaurant.

Here is a boy .. who amazes me in every way.

Two decades of work have flown by…

… I can’t wait to see where the next 2 decades take him …

Heroes

Some people look at my son .. and see a disability.

They look at his face and his mannerisms.. and they see Autism Spectrum disorder!

When I look at my son?

I see a strong boy. I see love, compassion and a love for our world.

When I look at my son? I see my hero.

Here is a human being that has been dealing with extreme medical issues since he was 6 weeks old.

A boy that had to have casts to hold soft bones in place. Screws to hold soft joints in place. Medicine to allow stiff joints to move.

Here is a child who learned to read labels to avoid 30 of his favorite foods.. because he wanted to walk without pain.

Here is a young adult who is enduring countless treatments to heal a painful skin condition.

Here is a boy who has always been in pain.

And yet?

…yet he greets people with a smile. He never mentions his pain. He will walk on painful feet to cook for his sick mom. He sees beauty and art all around him…

.. and he sees his future as bright and exciting…

He is in constant pain…

And he sees his future as bright and exciting…

When I look at my son?

I see my hero!

And when I grow up? I hope to be just like him.

..footprints..

I watched my son run down the shoreline today.. kicking sand in the direction of his sister. He didn’t even try to be sneaky about it. Laughing at his own antics, he would wait for his sister to splash him in return.. My daughter would pretend to be offended .. and then they repeated the whole scene again.

.. as I watched them play fight.. I noticed the footprints that my family left behind them..

.. the footprints that weaved in and out of the ones that stayed straight and steady…

.. the deep twisting prints of my kids’ playful actions..

… the steady footfalls that others left behind…

It got me thinking…

…it doesn’t really matter what path we take in life… it doesn’t even matter where we are going…

What REALLY matters?

What really matters is how we are getting there… Are we enjoying life? Are we enjoying our family? Are we living each moment to the fullest?

And most importantly?

What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving behind happy memories? Memories of laughter and playful water fights on the beach? Are we leaving behind feelings of love and being cherished?

What will people remember us for after our walk through life is finished? Will they remember how hard we worked? Or how we enjoyed life? Will they see the impact we had on others?

When I looked up from those footprints in the sand.. I watched my kids with a tear in my eye… (maybe more than one tear)..

I think both of my kids will leave some pretty special footprints through life..

both sets different ..

but equally beautiful in their own way…

That makes me one proud momom…

..washed away..

With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.

Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..

For me?

For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..

You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.

But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.

And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..

So prepared or not? It was worth it…

As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..

The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..

.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…

And it brought tears to my eyes..

As a parent of a child with special needs?

I feel just like that tree..

.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…

I should have fallen over long ago..

… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…

The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..

As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”

Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…

Safe place..

We went to church yesterday for the first time in awhile. I love attending services.. but churches aren't always the safest places for kids with special needs.

I know.. I know.. I was surprised by this too..

You see? My son has Autism with a side order of Bipolar.. add in the fact that he is also still a kid? It can kind of be a mess at times …

When my son is distressed he quotes movies.. Blue's clues, Dora, Alone in the wilderness, Peter Pan.. you name it.. he quotes it..

…but talking in church is typically frowned on.. even if it's in the back corner of the back row by a cute boy with lots of freckles.

We have gotten a lot of dirty looks.. a lot of stares.. and shushed more than a few times… throughout the years…

The problem is?

The more shushes.. the more glares?? …the more anxious he would get… the more he would quote.. AND the more often we would end up in the lobby listening over the speakers.

So we stopped going to church for a while… choosing to worship at home.. where he was safe..

When we lived in Missouri we found a church that smiled at my son when he quotes randomly in the middle of service. They high fived him in the lobby.. and we went to church regularly…

It was amazing..

But when we moved back to Michigan .. finding a new church was a little daunting and my son was very unstable.. so we kept our services at home again.

Yesterday we attended church with some friends at their invitation. We have attended this church a couple times with these family friends and another family as well. But my son was unstable and it was still uncomfortable for us.

But this year has been a good year for us, and my son is making great strides. So? So we made plans.. marked it on the calendar like it was an appointment.. and we went to church.

We arrived at church .. my daughter in jeans.. my son in his favorite 3 piece suit.. and we were greeted by a handful of people.

ALL of us were greeted.. especially my son.. who was obviously overdressed.

The extra effort that the congregation put into making him feel welcome.. and the extra effort our friends went through ??

It meant that my son sat through the 2 hour service holding my hand … mostly quietly.

To someone who goes to church every week it might not seem like much..

But to a mom who thought church was an impossible task?

It was a modern day miracle…

A new day.. 

Raising ANY kid poses its own challenges.. but raising a child with Autism (and a side of mood disorder)? 

Yeah… we’ve had some rough days .. 

…ok.. a lot of rough days … Days that I never want to go back to. New meds, withdrawling from meds, NO meds, no sleep…

… I could go on and on…

It was never hard for me to forgive my son for his bad days.. but it was hard for HIM to forgive HIMSELF.. 

So early on? We started telling him, “That was yesterday buddy.. TODAY is a new day.. today is going to be a good day!”

If he had a bad day and we had to take away his TV or his computer privileges? It ended when he went to sleep… 

Everything reset with the morning .. 

Luckily for us? We have had amazing support at the schools we have attended. They have maintained this “new day” policy with him through out his school career. Always forgiving him for bad days and moving forward. Sometimes easier than I could have…

Today as I watched him walk confidently into the school..? I think about how he is counting down the days until he will be a senior. And I think back to when he could barely get through a school day.. 

…there were days I thought we would never get to this level of independence.. this level of confidence.. 

..but in the morning when the sun would rise.. so would my faith that good things were going to happen.. 

When the sun rose this morning, it was such a sight. And I am filled with the promise that Today IS a good day.. 

I hope you all rejoice and are happy in it.. 

Celebrating…

What a fabulous day!!

FIRST? First we woke up late because we all slept through our alarms (hey… it was a great dream) … I barely made myself look presentable for public.. then we all rushed through our morning.. I made a boring lunch for Sy.. rushed everyone out the door and then a bus was parked at the entrance of the school.. 

And SIMON WENT to school… 

Like he physically (and calmly.. I might add) walked IN TO the school with not more than a cross look at the bus in our way (that he deems a “muddy mudslide” that’s in our way).. 

Some of you may wonder if I am serious to be celebrating such a “terrible” “mom” moment..?? HaPpY we overslept and I took my kids to school late? 

Haha.. 

I AM serious.. 

This is amazing!!!!

When Simon’s Autism was at its worst and his mood disorder was unstable? Everything had to stay on schedule .. and nothing could be out of order.. or he wouldn’t (couldn’t) have gone to school.. 

So exciting!!!

Maybe tomorrow he will let me stop and take a picture of the sun peaking through the fog on my favorite road.. lol.. 

I guess I shouldn’t press my luck ..

Just wait and see.. 

I have often been asked what I have planned for my son’s future. I always smile and reply “He wants to be a farmer..”

Most of the time people smile in return .. 

But sometimes there is an awkward silence and the inevitable.. “Do you really think he will be able to work? To hold down a real job?”

Yes.. 

Yes I do! 

And no I am not offended by this question.. 

You see? While my son has Autism (and a splash of bipolar).. His disabilities don’t own him. Simon is his own person and he knows what he wants.. He has known since he was 4. 

You may think Simon grew up in a farming community and THAT is why he wants to be a farmer. That he knows no difference.. Well THERE you would be mistaken. Our Simon grew up in a city from age 3 to 13.. 

Yup his love for farming seems to have been destined for him. 

So what did his father and I do? Well? We moved to a farming community back home in Michigan. 

Most people question our Sy’s ability to hold down a job because of his behaviors at school.. Freezing in doorways, anxiety over homework, refusals to take tests at times.. And wanting to go home. 

But you see? At school? 

At school, Simon knows he is behind his peers.. School work is hard… He doesn’t understand test questions because of the wording.. And sometimes (even IF he did understand them) he doesn’t know what they are asking.. He KNOWS he is built inadequate for school.. 

And YET? 

Yet you will see Simon get up every day and force himself to try to go to school. He can be close to tears in frustration over homework.. And yet he is one to INSIST he finish.. He pushes through anxiety, confusion and what ever distractions are around him (or distractions going on in his own head) to SUCCESS on the other side. 

That sounds like a job to me… 

At home, Simon is different. At home he is confident, creative, helpful.. He washes his own laundry, washes dishes, cooks whole meals, cleans the house, does chores, builds with his dad.. 

He does an amazing job!!

Not “pretty amazing” for a kid with autism.. 

JUST pretty amazing for a 17 year old.. Because he does it exactly the way I do.. (Or the way his dad does).. Exactly the way he was taught.. 

Then? Then he adds a slash of creativity.

This week, I woke my son to face another hard day at school. As I rubbed his back and talked about his day.. I told him I was going to teach him to drive our lawn mower after school. 

He sat straight up in bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “What did you say?” 

Smiling, I repeated that I thought he was old enough to learn to drive the lawn tractor to mow the lawn. 

The smile on his face made my heart happy..

He quickly got ready for his day.. Was still a little grumpy with his sister.. But went to school easily.. 

AFTER school? Well after school he quickly changed into his farmer hat and overalls, his John Deere shirt with long sleeves and farmer boots.. 

And our lessons began.. 

I admit I get nervous with vehicles.. The same nervousness I got when I taught my daughter to drive .. 

I ran from one side of the lawn mower to the other .. Pointing out how FAR the mower deck sticks out.. How to slow down.. How to stop.. How to speed up a little.. How to crank the wheel so you don’t crash.. 

The first 5 mins were nerve racking for me.. Because he learns best by doing.. So at a snail’s pace and yelling over the motor and earplugs.. I gave him on-the-go lessons.. 

And then he was off.. One circle around the yard and I moved the mower one notch faster.. He watched how I did that too… 

He looked for cars when he circled up into the road.. Kept the mower in a straight line.. He mowed next to the first stripe perfectly (or circled back to fix it.. Mowed around baby trees and big trees.. Power poles and ditches.. 

By the 3rd circle of the yard, I stopped following him.. He no longer needed me. 

After 4 hours? He was up to full speed (by his own choice) and the yard was flawless.. 


Not “pretty good” for a boy with autism..

Not “pretty good” for his first time.. 

It was pretty awesome.. No missed spots.. Straight lines..

 In fact?  My husband said he had to weed whack far less than when I mow.. 

I am not offended by that.. Just really proud.. 

But I am not surprised.. He always throws himself into his work.. And doesn’t stop until the work is done.. And done well.. 

We could use more workers like that in the world.. 

So YES… I think Simon will keep a job and support himself.. 

And yes, he will need support to start new adventures and to get through difficult situations.. Like doctor offices.. paperwork.. And paying bills.. 

But he will make it.. And it’s going to be amazing.. 

Not amazing for a kid with Autism..

Just plain amazing ..

But you don’t have to take my word for it.. Stick around .. 

…wait and you will see it for yourself.. 

Come sit…

img_0311My son is rumored to have “special” needs..

Ok.. I know he has Special needs.. With Autism and a Mood disorder ? I’m not in denial.

But sometimes? Sometimes I think my boy has things figured out better than I do..

You see? When my son is stressed? He takes himself off alone and does something he enjoys until he calms down. Most often that “something” is a campfire. He can sit for hours just watching the flames dancing in the fire pit. And with a content smile on his face, he will call out to me.. “Come sit..”…

But usually? Usually I am too busy.. Getting dinner around or cleaning it up afterward.. or there are emails to answer… book promoting tweets to copy and paste… research to search for… schedules to plan for..

Yes I know… it doesn’t sound like much.. but it seems like there is always something that needs to be done.

Last week I was sick.. and so tired. So I just sat down.. and read a book. NOT skimmed through a book.. but slowly read each page and enjoyed it. Slowly fell in love with each character.. resisted the urge to read the last page… read every descriptive word…

It felt….??

Refreshing… and I was oh so calm.

So why is it that we give up “refreshments” as moms? or even just as adults? Why do I feel like I have to sacrifice my favorite things to be a good adult? I was able to DO so much more that following day because I was content and clear minded…

So maybe my son does have special needs… but I still learn so much from him.