Thursday, July 30, 2015

That Type of Anxiety.

When Jordan smiled and cooed, I was filled with amazement and joy. I was so glad I decided to stay home and be with her everyday. Since it finally got easier, I loved to nurse, and I felt like it was the most special gift I could share with her. I also knew that I wanted to have another baby without waiting too long.  Even though I remembered the pain and discomfort of her birth, (oh who am I kidding, it was just plain old pain. Discomfort doesn't even come close to describing it) it still seemed so worth it. When we got one as good as Jordan, how could we not want another? 

When I go on like this, ranting about my own feelings, I feel a bit awkward and guilty. I mean, this blog is supposed to be about my child who struggles with mental illnesses. But explaining the closeness and the emotional bond that I felt towards her when she was young, does serve a purpose. It will later help you to understand my feelings of confusion, anger, and I guess, even betrayal. Because watching your child slowly enter into a world where it is impossible to reach her, no matter what you do or say... no matter how much you love her...well let's just say that it didn't bring out the best qualities in me. 

At just over four months Jordan was smiling all of the time. She "yelled” at me when she wanted to eat or suck, and was alert and watching the world when facing outward in the baby carrier. It's like she didn't want to miss anything, ever.

We visited a neighborhood boy who was two weeks younger than Jordan. I left there with an awareness that Jordan may be a bit “uptight” for lack of a better word. She tensed her arms and fists and held them over her chest when she was lying down. I never thought anything of it until I compared her to another child her age.

At one pediatrician appointment the doctor asked me if she did this often. I answered that yes, she did. Then I asked him if this was, for lack of a better term, "normal".  He answered that he thought "we should keep an eye on it." I wasn't really sure if I should be concerned with that answer or not, so I chose not to be.

Looking back, this was probably one of the first blatant physical signs that she was uptight, and that she may have a propensity towards anxiety. But as a new mom who was watching her first born daughter thrive and grow, I had no idea what real anxiety was.

I'm talking about the type of anxiety that freezes and cripples a person. The type that forces a young girl to cry and hide in her closet, or sit facing a corner while covering her ears. The kind that Jordan eventually described to me as a feeling "like everything is going to end and come crashing down on me one day."

That was the day that my light bulb turned on.  I began to realize the severity of what we were dealing with. No one should feel this way, especially not every minute of every day. It's just not fair.

That is the type of anxiety I'm talking about. And when Jordan was a baby, I knew nothing about it.

I sure do have a much better understanding of it now.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

One Breath At a Time

Looking back at my journals, I can see that during the first few weeks of Jordan's life (not surprisingly) I was on an emotional roller coaster. 

After she was born I cried a little bit each night. She cried an average of two long hours each night. Once the friends and family left, and Adam went back to work, Jordan and I tried to find a schedule, a routine. At 19 days old, she began sleeping less. She used to wake up crying at 4 a.m., then it went to 3, then 2, and then 1 a.m. We tried everything to calm her down, but nothing seemed to work.. The doctor told us that she felt out of control and uncomfortable while she was lying flat on her back, but we were told not to lie her down on her stomach. I felt like saying, "Um Doc, this is all pretty new to me. How should I lay her down, because I'm at a loss right now."

So we became expert swaddle-ers. I'm surprised that she could even breath because we wrapped her so tightly. It helped a little, but she still seemed agitated and would not fall asleep. She obviously couldn't hold a pacifier yet, and she didn't find her fingers or thumb, so I held the pacifier in for her. In retrospect, I wonder if that was a good choice. But I couldn't ignore the fact that while she was sucking, she was relaxed and happy. When the pacifier fell out, she was screaming. Loudly.

I tried nursing her. She would stop crying while she ate, and start crying again when we were done. And I certainly couldn't nurse her forever. She took over 20 minutes on each side, falling asleep on and off. It usually took about an hour for her to eat. All the books said that I was supposed to nurse her every two or three hours. You do the math. I was like a walking bottle. 

This reminds me of when we were still in the hospital and the nurses told me that I "just have to wake her up because she needs to learn to eat and suck". I felt like saying "you try to wake her up." (It's still almost impossible to wake Jordan up today.) What did they want me to do, slap her? I tried a wet rag, moving her, tickling her... nothing worked. So of course I feared a bunch of things in those first two days of her life:

One: That I was possibly going to starve my child.
Two: That my milk would never come in if we didn't get this nursing thing down today.
Three: That the lingering labor pains from nursing (which was quite honestly the most cruel part of this whole experience) would never go away.

Some days were easy, and some were very difficult. When she cried it was intense, and it seemed to go on forever. It made my heart hurt. But if I'm being completely honest, it also made me angry. As her mother, I should have been able to fix whatever was wrong, to take the pain away. But I couldn't. Small tinges of resentment also entered into my mind, because before I had Jordan I pretty much had everything under control. Now it felt as if nothing in my life was in my control.

Other days I wondered how I could love someone so much. The more I understood her, the more I loved her. Everything about her was amazing. I mean she was a miracle. A half-Adam, half-Me miracle.  

Yes, looking back, I was a bit all over the place.

I know that babies are very sensitive to other's emotions, especially their mother's. Could that be one of the reasons why Jordan struggles with anxiety? Maybe I stressed her out because I was on edge and obsessed with her every move. But then again, I probably wouldn't have worried so much if she hadn't cried so often and so hard.

I wonder which came first, my feelings of stress and anxiety, or hers. Ultimately, at this point in our lives, I guess it doesn't really matter. I found a quote by author Jasinda Wilder that helps me to sum it up.
"All we can do is try,
do our best. 
Give as much time as we have to give,
one day at a time. One breath at a time."

And so the Beck story continues. One day, and one breath, at a time.

Thanks for breathing along with us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stupid Lights.

This is just a quick rant. I will get back to our story the next time that I share.

Let me start by saying that the post titled: Where To For Us Too?, the one that mentioned the light at the end of the tunnel... It was a bunch of crap.

I'm kidding, of course, but I don't want everyone to think that things are always all peaches and cream here. At times our light gets pretty dim. Sometimes it gets close to extinguishing.  Those are never easy times for us.

As parents, it's inevitable that our kids will do things differently than we would. In other words we can't, and don't, have control over them. Uggh. Here's an example. If you are a mental list keeper, and crossing things off of said list gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment, than everyone should be a list keeper. Right??  It would help them to live a more organized, and in effect, a happier life. But the older I get, the less naive I am about things like this. Everyone has their own path to take.

So this is written just to let you know that lights at the end of tunnels... they are always on a dimmer switch.  

That was my attempt at trying to use imagery. I never claimed to be a writer. I'm just a mom who is trying to deal with life the best that she can. :)

Thank you for listening. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Beginning

Here it goes.

Although I certainly do not want this to be all about me, I think that in order to share our story I will need to try to describe the relationship that Jordan Winter and I have had since she was born. Assuming that at least a few of you are mothers, much of the emotion and connection that I felt will probably seem very familiar to you. At times it just blew me away.

Jordan was our first child, so the entire pregnancy and birth experience was overwhelming, joyous, scary, name the emotion, we were probably experiencing it. The intensity of the protective feelings that I had for her were crazy, and I didn't expect it. One time when Jordan was an infant, Adam didn't get up to check on her when she was crying. I was in another room, and one of our college friends (who did not have her own children yet) tried to comfort her. I got so angry at Adam. He told me that he didn't even realize that she was crying.

Excuse me?

So when I hear her cry, it actually, physically hurts me. Hurts my entire being. And you don't even hear her? I told him that he needed to get his priorities straight. Whether right or wrong, my reaction took me by surprise. It didn't matter who it was, if someone were to hurt my child in any way, there would be consequences.

There have been four times since Jordan was born that I have actually experienced one of those "life flashes before your eyes" type of things. You know, the kind that you see on soap operas or sitcoms, shown so that the audience is made aware of just how intense the past was?  I was instantly overcome with a rush of memories. In a few seconds I could see her on the day she was born, and all of the big events that happened in her life...the first time she smiled, crawled, took her first steps. I know. It sounds crazy, right? It freaked me out.

The first time this happened, Adam and I decided to go out and leave the girls with a babysitter. Jordan was two and a half and she stood against the door with her little hands pressed up against it. She didn't cry, but I did. During dinner, at the restaurant. That date lasted about an hour. The second time we left her at my in-law's house for a few days. Let's just say that that was not a fun three and a half hour drive home.

The third time she was five and a half, and she woke up with a high fever. I put her in the tub, and once the fever broke she began to tremble and shake uncontrollably. It frightened me so much that I woke Adam up. When I laid down in bed with her, I realized how big she had gotten. My baby was growing up. We both giggled because the last time I was in her bed with her, we had much more room to snuggle. We talked about how cool it was that she was growing up in such wonderful ways. This time, I not only had the memory-filled flashback, but I also had a "flash forward".  My mind jumped to picturing her as a teenager, when she would be as big as me. At that moment I kind of panicked. My heart was instantly filled with a sense of sadness and dread. I knew that one day I would need to let her go.

The final flashback happened this year, when Jordan was 17. This time was definitively the toughest one for me to take. It was when I dropped her off at the intensive outpatient treatment center. Babysitters, short getaways, fevers, they are all to be expected when raising a child. Intensive outpatient therapy for your teenager is not a milestone that any parent expects, or quite frankly, wants. She cried before she got out of the car. I cried after. We both knew that this was what she needed to help her get back on track, but it still sucked.

So I hope that me sharing some of our past, will help you better understand how we got where we are today. I still sometimes wonder about the whole nature verses nurture argument. A friend once asked me if I felt guilty because Jordan had to deal with so many issues. At the time I answered that I did not, but honestly, sometimes I do. I'm her mother. Not only does this guilt stem from the fact that (like in many families) ours has a history of mental illness, but maybe some of her issues are in direct correlation with how I treated her and reacted to her strong will and intensity. Nature, nurture, or maybe a little of both. Who knows.

If you continue to follow Us Too, perhaps you can be the judge of that for yourself. (And maybe you can help me to figure it out. ;).

Thank you for reading.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Where to for Us Too?

Thank you so much for joining me at Us Too. I've been thinking about where I should go from here, now that I put this thing out there. What is the ultimate goal?

I told Jordan that this is not a venue that allows me to scrutinize her every move, and document her senior year. That would be unfair to her. Besides, she is currently living her life to the fullest, and as she phrased it so well, she is "finally acting her age". Although she still has struggles, Jordan is happy, has tons of friends, is doing great in school, has a job, a boyfriend, just got her driver's permit, and she is a talented singer.. Okay, so I'm a proud parent. :). I'm only mentioning Jordan's current situation to demonstrate that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when the struggles feel all consuming and endless, you need to believe that life can, and will, get better.

So, I guess the goal of Us Too is to try to demonstrate how we all got to this healthier, positive place. I can honestly say that it was not always easy. I can't tell you the number of times that Adam (my awesome, supportive husband) and I made mistakes, and afterwards apologized to Jordan. I'm talking all out screaming, say things that shouldn't be said to loved ones, kind of mistakes. We basically had to admit to her (and to ourselves) that we were kind of clueless, having never done this "raising a teenager" thing before. Not easy to do, especially for a competitive, sometimes stubborn, person like me. The way I see it, if things are going that badly within a family, it's never because of only one person's behavior. Everyone involved has a role, and most likely, everyone's behavior needs to change. Because life isn't supposed to be that painful.

No matter how angry, hurt, and scared, one thing had to be made very clear. We were all on the same team. The goal of this team, our team, was to help her find happiness and comfort, so that she could start to enjoy, and live, her life again. This blog will hopefully give you a glimpse into how we attempted to do this, starting with when Jordan was a very young child. As one of Jordan's therapists told me, "her childhood sounds like a textbook case of anxiety disorder".

If you decide to come along on our journey, I promise that you will witness the good, the bad, and the ugly, but more importantly, the love.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A new way to share our story...

Over a year ago, I decided to start a support group for parents with children who suffered from chemical imbalances/mental illnesses. I did this because our 17 year old daughter, Jordan had been suffering with quite a few since she was young. Unfortunately it took until she was 13 for me to realize that no matter what we tried and how we dealt with everything, it was not enough. At a certain point you kind of get hit in the face with the fact that your child is struggling way too much, that it is definitely not fair, and that no matter what you do, it doesn't help. Not an easy thing to admit. The child who I loved, cared for, and would do anything necessary in order to protect and spare from harm, was slowly being taken away from us and sucked into a world of pain and confusion.

The support group went on for about a year. After sending out a letter explaining how I pictured that it would work, (view the letter) I received positive support from many friends and acquaintances, even those who were not personally affected with mental illness. It was a small group consisting of parents with kids who were suffering with everything from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), OCD, depression, ADHD and Aspergers, to drug abuse, and Autism. What was very clear was that we were all scared, had questions and we were all suffering along with our children. It was a safe haven to vent, share and sometimes cry.

Eventually I decided that the group was causing me too much stress, not because of what went on during the meetings,(that seemed to be helpful for those who attended, especially for my husband and me), but because of the low attendance. It seems that in this day and age, we are all overbooked, and putting our kids needs before our own. In my final email to the group, I mentioned that I would perhaps begin a blog instead of having the group. That was about a year ago. Today I feel that now may be the right time to start a blog. This past weekend there were many signs pointing me in that direction.

First of all, one of my best friends came to visit with her daughter this weekend. The amount of pain and suffering that she has dealt with and overcome boggles my mind. I have known her for over 33 years, none of which have been easy for her. The fact that she is raising a beautiful, healthy daughter on her own, proves to me that anything is possible, and gives me a huge amount of hope for my own daughter. My friend was reading the very first stages of a book that I am hoping to someday complete and publish about raising a child like my daughter. I have kept a pretty detailed journal since she was born, mostly for sanity purposes. Well, she asked me how Jordan's fits of rage as a baby played into the whole list of labels/diagnoses that they both suffer from. It's not depression, not OCD, or anxiety, is it?? I answered that I wasn't sure.

Then today I was reading the book Beyond Blue which is written by Therese J. Borchard. The description of her son's behavior blew me away. It was so similar to Jordan's. She was afraid that he would give himself a concussion from hitting his head against the wall or tile floor. Jordan slammed her head into her crib bars, which I thought was the safest place to put your child. When I went in to try and calm her down, she would have huge lumps on her forehead. Even though she was our first child, and I did feel pretty clueless at times, I knew that this wasn't “normal” behavior. Therese described the behaviors as “anxiety attacks”. Okay. That made sense to me. The realization that there are other families going through similar struggles, and that maybe it wasn't because of us that our child has so much to overcome, those realizations are priceless. It really does help to lessen the feelings of isolation, anger, and fear.

That is why I decided to try to start up this blog. Please feel free to help me, and hopefully in return, I can help you. Thank you. Lisa Beck

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

POPIK Letter


My name is Lisa Beck and I have three children currently attending the Great Valley School District.
I am sending this to any and all parents for whom I have email addresses, regarding the negative stigma attached to mental illness and chemical imbalances. While the negative connotation is getting less, it does still exist and is taxing to many. No one knows what families could be dealing with behind closed doors in regards to mental illness. If you and your family are fortunate enough not to be experiencing struggles with such issues within your home, then please disregard this letter. If it does apply to you and your loved ones, then please read on.

I am considering trying to form a support group for those parents who have a child/children who is/are struggling with some type of mental illness or chemical imbalance. Although I don't want to be discriminatory, I'm not just talking about the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior that we have been seeing from all three of our middle school and high school kids these days. Definitely not fun, but a normal (and hopefully short-lived) part of development. I am talking about kids who have been diagnosed with or show symptoms of any of the illnesses out there such as: depression, anxiety disorder(s), OCD, ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, cutting, dermatillomania, trichotillomania, eating disorders, perfectionism... Sadly, the list could go on.

My daughter Jordan is a sophomore and she is currently dealing with a few of these. She is a trooper, and is comfortable enough to speak up and share most of her experiences with friends. Her goal is for the stigma to go away and for people to understand that these are sicknesses that people can't really help or control. She is thankfully receptive to therapy (although the third try) and seems to be on the right combination of medications, (which is something that I never thought one of our kids would need or take.) Right now, things are going pretty well. I say this because I am realistic and I am learning that none of this is black and white, and that none of it is easy. Life changes everyday, especially the life of a stressed out, over-taxed teenager.
And speaking of over-taxed teenagers...

Not that anyone asked for my theory, but I am curious to know if Adam and I are the only ones with this point of view. I certainly do believe that Jordan was born with many of these tendencies, but I also believe that kids are not getting enough sleep because of all their activities and school work. AP and Honors level classes, college-amounts of homework while our kids are still in high school full time, and other crazy demands are being put on them. And we, as parents, are just letting it all happen, letting them make these choices like they are capable of completely logical decision making. The frontal lobe in their brain is not fully developed until around the age of 21. Most high school kids that I have spoken to say that they sleep less than 5 hours a night. We're not much better at our house, probably averaging around 6. We have tried by not allowing Jordan to take an AP course that she was very capable of doing well in, if she had the time to devote to it. As you can imagine, that didn't go over very well. She felt as if we were punishing her because of her issues. In our minds we were just protecting her.
So as you can see from that short outburst, a support group would do me a world of good. :)

Please let me know if you would be interested in getting together to vent, share, worry, and hopefully laugh a little. I haven't really thought about the logistics of this; I'll wait and see if there is any interest. Please forward this to any and all parents who you think may be interested in, or would benefit from joining a support group like this.
Thank you for taking the time to read this longer-than-planned letter.

Lisa Beck