Tag Archives: Bipolar

..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.

 

Stay on the Path…

Sometimes I look back at some of my blogs and re-read them.. A friend of mine was talking about how much my “Stay on the Path” blog touched her.. 

So?? 

I opened it up and re-read it..

At the time I wrote it.. I had been only think about the aspects of being a mother of a child with special needs. But today? Today I realize it could count for any number of my struggles in life..

And lately my path has been really icy..

Stay on the Path…. (For anyone who hasn’t read it)

It’s a Spring thing… understand?!?

IMG_0081
I have a son who has special needs… He has autism with a touch of bipolar. As a parent? That can be tough on a day to day basis.. or it can be easy.. depending on the day… and Honestly? Honestly it depends on the season. Summer is the easiest for us…  .. but Please don’t think my son is the norm for all kids with Autism… 

There is a very accurate statement out there.

If you know one person with Autism? Then .. you know ONE person with Autism.. 

Every child with Autism is an individual.. every child with Autism has their challenges.. every child with Autism has their super powers…. Every child with or without Autism.. is a child… first and foremost.

But in our little crazy household? 

Summer time is the easy season to parent. So much to do.. free time to explore. 

Fall and Winter come with their mood challenges… 

But Spring?

Spring is a challenging time for our family… The longer days… the warmer temps… the increased activities… These all increase the serotonin levels flowing through all of our veins… but for a child with a mood disorder? It wrecks havoc on the delicate balance in the system.  For us it means increased happiness.. increased agitation.. increased activity.. increased anxiety.. increased frustration… increased laughter.. increased tears.. and sometimes… increased aggression.

I say sometimes…

There were years that all I could remember was the aggression.. because it is devastating… Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child hurting another person? Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child feeling so “in danger” that they lash out to protect themselves? Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child feeling so OUT of CONTROL that they punch themselves in the head to relieve the “pressure”?

All of these things threaten to overwhelm me in the Spring…

But I am Blessed… My husband has always provided a stable platform for me and our two children. Because of this, I have been able to have careers flexible enough to care for our son. Flexible enough that I can be home for him when this Spring thing happens.

With my husband’s support.. constant prayer … and the wonderful people God has placed in my son’s life?? We survive every spring.. Every year we grow a little stronger and mature (my son and I both)…

My son has grown so much.. in fact… that this spring? When the flowers bloomed.. I was able to do some things I enjoy in the spring.. Like taking walks and reading books… and sewing prom dresses.

So someday soon… I hope to rewrite this spring thing…

Control…

...taken by Kristina Olmsted..

Sometimes?

Sometimes I make plans… Oh can I make some detailed plans... Plans to be productive.. plans to be helpful… Plans to organize my plans…

And then?

And then God shows me that it is not MY will … But HIS that I should follow…

When I don't listen to what God's Will is.. things tend to go wrong. Just little things.. but there are enough "little" things that I have to deal with? That I start to feel like a salmon … fighting against the current to swim upstream. When I continue to fight against the current… YUP… I feel stressed and exasperated! You probably know the feeling…

When I tried working at the preschool my kids attended? I was good at my job.. and I enjoyed it! I REALLY enjoyed it. But I fought my kids to go to school every day.. with a child on the Autism Spectrum.. with a side of Bipolar? Fighting them to do something that stresses them? It doesn't really work out very well. I kept having to go pick him up from school because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed.. I was stressed.. my neighbor who was putting him on the bus was stressed…

…and then?

Then one November? My kids were sick… the whole month. I missed a WHOLE month of work.. A runny nose here.. a sore throat there.. a cough… a wheeze… a fever… some bronchitis…

sigh…. and then I sat still and listened…

You see .. MY plan was not what God had in store for me. It took me 3 years to figure that out.. yes I said 3 YEARS.. I am stubborn and persistent. Once I decided to listen to the Still small voice of God.. I realized what He was telling me. HIS plan for me was not at that preschool that I loved… and I wasn't listening…

So at the end of the year I resigned… and I stayed home for the next 6 years. And God? God sent me family after family who needed in home care for their kiddos. I never had a shortage of work.. and I never felt like I was swimming upstream… Now it was challenging and was hard work.. don't get me wrong… but I never felt like I was fighting against every element to make it work…

With that slight change in will-power? I had turned it around, swimming in the direction God was trying to lead me… and BAM.. I was back in control..

Except control is an illusion… I never really had control in the first place….

50 firsts…

Someone once asked me what it was like to live with special needs.. Not just special needs really.. But with Autism (and a side of bipolar).. At the time I couldn’t really answer..

I mean.. With autism you know what you get.. Overload.. Anxiety.. Obsession.. meltdowns..

But add Bipolar? Then you add unpredictability.. When you get home? You don’t know if you have a child with a good mood or anger.. Or tears. When your son comes out of his room? You don’t know if you will have cooperation or frustration..

Honestly?

Honestly I can’t tell you if I will see my Son.. his autism.. OR his bipolar… from one minute to the next .. Especially in the spring months..

So to the question? I simply said, “It’s a roller coaster ride.. But it’s worth it.”

And that IS the truth ..

Tonight I watched a movie with my girls called “50 first dates”.. It was really cute .. a little crude in places (yes I am very old-fashioned.. I don’t like crude jokes).. But still cute.. And worth the watch..

For anyone not familiar.. 50 first dates is about a young lady who is in an accident that results in a brain injury. Because of the injury, she cannot create new memories .. So everyday her dad and brother recreate the last day she remembers. Over and over and over again.. When she meets a new guy, he has to help her fall in love with him over and over again.. every day.. Like EVERY day.. Eventually they develop a system.. They create a video of flashbacks since the accident.. Events.. Dates.. And eventually their wedding… And the young lady writes her thoughts in a journal.. A list of things she doesn’t want to forget.. Important things ..

Then she goes to sleep and wakes up refreshed.. And starts each day over again.. Remembering nothing .. Then she watches the video and reads her notes .. EVERY day ..

At the end of the movie? When we saw that she had to be reminded of her child that she couldn’t remember. As the credits began to roll, my daughter said.. “What a terrible way to live”..

But what if she never progressed beyond that accident.. What if she never stopped living that day over and over? What if she never lived ANYTHING NEW beyond that day?

That would be terrible indeed..

But to have flashback videos and hand written notes every morning.. To catch her up to ? To remind her she is married? To remind her she has a baby?

To be living that married life?

To be a mom?

That is being Blessed!

Being a mom to a young man with autism? Living with a loved one with Bipolar? It is very similar to “50 firsts”..

Every morning I wake up.. And I watch a flash back of important moments in our lives.. Important break throughs.. Flash through my mind.. Every day while I drink my chai? I read through the notes I have made through the years.. Only the important ones..

And then I set forth!

I set forth to make new Memories.. New important events.. I deal with each event as they occur.. Living in the moment! Never bringing the past into play.. Not remembering the mistakes from the day before. Unlike the movie? These choices are voluntary.. To choose to forget the bad.. to forget the mistakes..

THEN? Then I record those moments in my mind.. Sometimes I even write important information down..

Some days are good.. And just like movie? Yup.. Some days are a disaster.

And just like the movie? Sometimes the days are so bad that I cry myself to sleep at night ..

Then every night ? I sleep and the stress washes away. I wake up each new day ready to conquer some new activities.. With my flash backs and handwritten notes.

And we celebrate every “first” that comes along.. His first 2 word sentence at 5, his first full night sleep at 6.. His first solo cooked meal.. His first time walking to class on his own..  The first test taken by himself.. The first time he stayed home alone..

Ok.. You are right! There are WAY more than 50 “firsts” in our life.  But we celebrate each one…

I know that some people look at my son’s life .. At MY life.. and they think, “What a terrible way to live”..

But to me?

To me a world without my son in it? A world without 50 OR 100 “firsts” being celebrated?

What a terrible way to live…