Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Three P's of September Survival: Persistence, Pliability, and Patience

Original artwork by: Ryan Selvy

This cartoon cracked me up. 

All of a sudden, summer is coming to an end. Again.  I really do try to make it a point during the long hot summer days to appreciate everything: the time spent with the kids, the reprieve from racing around from one school activity to another, daylight lasting into the evening, hot weather, taking vacations, sleeping in, staying up late without the worry... I try, but I'm not always successful. There are so many reasons to appreciate the summer. And then all of a sudden, it's over. 

This is such a conflicted time for so many, especially children, that I thought I would write about it. Not to mention that as the week before school comes closer to an end, I become more and more of an emotional, mixed up mess. I'm sure that I am not the only person in the world who thinks that change, well basically, it sucks. I know that it can be a good thing, but I still hate going through it. Imagine how this time of year feels for those who are struggling with any number of their own issues.

The way I see it, there are three things that most people probably need to work on in order to get through this time of year with the least amount of stress and tension. I like to call it the Three P's of September Survival: Persistence, Pliability, and Patience.

Persistence: Firm continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

Well anyone who has kids knows that life is full of both difficulty and opposition... hopefully not on a daily basis. Without persistence I wonder how many students and parents would survive the transition into the school year, and the drastic changes in schedule that it brings.

While enjoying the summer, I find myself wondering how we are all able to get through the next ten months of hecticness. The ability to be persistent can be very helpful. It's like the song goes in the movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Just keep moving forward in life. This may not sound all that difficult, but it leads me to contemplate how anyone suffering with anxiety or depression can continue to be persistent during the year. How can someone be expected to proceed in their course of action, if they have the tendency to get overwhelmed and freeze up with worry and fear?

Pliability: Capable of being changed or adjusted to meet particular or varied needs.

The more activities that kids are involved in, the more that this applies to their lives. The same goes for parents. I know some moms and dads who are more flexible than Stretch Armstrong was back in the day. And I have no idea how some kids are able to juggle everything that they do, while still excelling at all of it. Their pliability astounds me.  Jordan once told me that she was one of those kids, before her issues began to interfere. Although these issues helped her to realize her limits, she was not happy about it. Her capability to adjust to what life was throwing at her, began to gradually stop meeting her perceived needs. 

Patience:  The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset                    or angry.

This is obviously easier said than done, at least for me. How can anyone be expected to accept or tolerate anything, when it may involve your kid's suffering? And what if it's you who is struggling? Having patience is tough. When most of the family is stressed out and sleep deprived, it's even tougher. When one of your children is diagnosed with Perfectionism, let's just say that words such as tolerance and acceptance, are not usually traits that go hand in hand with that diagnosis.

It is my hope that all of Us are able to embrace the beauty during the change of seasons, realize that each moment in our children's lives is fleeting, and that no matter what, we are able to ease into a calm, stress-free September.

Yours in persistence, pliability, and patience, (I hope)
Us Too.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

From the Outside Looking In, It's Hard to Understand. From the Inside Looking Out, It's Hard to Explain

You know all those adorable car commercials when you see one of the parents, after a long ride and a day full of fun, carrying their sleeping child from the car and into the house? Well, that never happened in our family. Not once. Not with any one of our three kids. And I have no idea why.

I realize that I briefly mentioned this story in one of my first posts, but this explains it in more emotional detail. When Jordan was around a year old, she had fallen asleep in the car. The logical assumption was, so I thought, that she would finish her nap in her crib. But as many of us now realize, logic and child rearing don't always go hand in hand. Very carefully I unbuckled her car seat and carried her towards the house. She began to whine a bit, but I still had hope that we would make it to her crib. We did make it, until I laid her down. That's when, pretty much, all hell broke lose.

Initially I didn't go running in, because of that whole "fear of spoiling", self soothing thing that I mentioned in a previous post. But I guess that this time I should have acted a bit more quickly. She must have flailed herself all around her crib, because she obviously slammed her head into the bars two or three times. When I did go in, I found her with a very big black and blue bump on her forehead and two smaller red marks on her cheeks. She was sobbing and hysterical. I comforted her and wrapped my arms around her with all of my being, until she finally calmed down. It broke my heart to see her hurting to much emotionally, but this time she was also hurting physically. Even though I didn't witness the behavior, I had the distinct, upsetting feeling that she had hit her head into the bars intentionally. Just a mother's intuition. 

Now that I am so much more in tune with Jordan and what makes her tick, as well as being more educated in Self-Injury Disorders, sadly, I feel that my intuition was probably correct. I see now that her behavior at 12 months old, wasn't all that surprising. It shares similarities with what she is struggling with today, Dermatillomania. This is one of the unfortunate symptoms of this disorder. 

But why is she forced to live with this?  What about her makeup caused her to become inflicted with this crappy disorder? She was not abused physically, emotionally or sexually. She was not discouraged from expressing anger and she certainly did not lack the skills to express her emotions. These are a few of the possible causes.

Asking all of these questions is fine, I guess, as long as I don't really feel the need to get any answers. Life is what it is. It's like that elementary school saying goes "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Each and every day, Jordan is certainly making the best of what she got. Some days are definitely harder than others. Imagine being unable to get out of bed because you know that there are mirrors all over the house, and you know that you will be incapable of avoiding them. The mirror in her room has been covered with wrapping paper for over two years now. These days definitely constitute some of the more difficult ones.

I'm not sure if I have a message for this post, except to realize that everyone is most likely battling something in their lives, seen or unseen. If we are aware of this fact, then perhaps we can all try to be a little more patient, understanding, and open minded to other's uniqueness and differences.

Wishing you peace, love and acceptance.

Us Too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Love and Awe. Mixed With Just A Little Bit of Worry. :)

The next few months of Jordan's life were amazing. Her first word was “banana” and she said it every time she ate anything. Most other words she pronounced as a high-pitched squeak, so we called her the “squeaker”. She learned to walk, did “so big!”, fed herself, ate anything that we gave her, and pointed to our ears and noses. She was still nursing, although less and less. I could whip those puppies out anywhere, (discreetly, of course) and we would just do our thing. At this point we had gotten very good at it.

Until she decided to give up nursing, at around 10 1/2 months. This was the same time that she learned how to walk.  Apparently she was more interested in the world around her, than in bonding with Mom. She would stretch her neck around if she heard anything, unlatch, and get down to investigate whatever it was that distracted her. Sometimes she would just laugh at me, as if saying “Mom, really? I'm getting too old for this.” So she weened herself off. No hard feelings, not much engorgement. I guess it was the right time for both of us.

When Jordan was 11 months old, we found out that we were pregnant again. Another baby! It was overwhelming to think that we could ever love, and be in such awe of another child. Was it even possible? Jordan was everything to me. I knew that I would always have more love to give, but when I looked at Jordan, I kind of saw myself. 


One time she had a scratch on her face, and when I glanced in the mirror, I expected to see it on my face. That sounds a bit crazy to me, so I can imagine how it sounds to some of you. She did resemble me when I was a baby, so maybe that was the reason why... Maybe. :/

It's no wonder that being witness to her struggles and challenges was, and still is, so all-consuming for me. It's like she was an extension of me. I wasn't sure if I could share these same intense feelings with another baby, but I sure hoped that I would. I knew that having two perfect children was a lot to ask for, and I just wished for another healthy, happy child.

At 13 months, Jordan was a joy! I kissed her whenever I could, and she hugged me and laid on top of me. I could sit and watch her play forever, and Adam and I told her that we loved her all of the time.This kind of love was so strong and different than any other that I had ever felt. It was so fulfilling and special. She was so beautiful and growing up with such flare, right before our very eyes. 

I'm not sure about you, but I definitely think that is enough gushing for one post.

I always knew that watching our kids grow up, letting them spread their wings, would be difficult. I remember crying when they were babies because I realized that one day they wouldn't need me in the same way. 

Our whole introduction into the world of mental illness (which is a term that I really dislike, but I'll save that for another post) has really complicated the "letting go" stage of our relationship with Jordan. How can you let your child slowly enter into the exciting, wonderful, but sometimes cruel and harsh world, when getting out of bed has been a reoccurring struggle for her? 

Honestly, I don't think that you can. But people change. And so does life.

Jordan is going to be a senior this year. Soon we will be slammed in the face with the ultimate time for letting go, physically and emotionally.  And I have no idea how the next year and a half will play out. College, a gap year, a job, learning to drive, the picking, living on her own? Right now it's all up in the air. That is where we are today, and again... it is okay.

It has to be.  

I hope that you are also okay with where you are in your lives. 

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mentally Ill, or Just Strong Willed?

And now back to the saga of raising our strong willed baby girl. 

Some days, during nap time, Jordan would throw a tantrum in her crib. No tears, but a blatant, I'm not getting what I want, and I'm angry about it, tantrum. Usually at this young age, if I told her to stop, she would lay herself down, a pacifier in each hand, and go to sleep. One time at dinner, Adam had to yell at her because she was “yelling” at him. No words (because she was only seven months old) mind you, just full blown attitude, being thrown right in Dad's face. Gratefully, after he reprimanded her, she did stop yelling.

At this time we both thought that she was a trip. A seven month old trip, with a huge attitude. We were serious with her, and let her know that her behavior was not acceptable, but it was still kind of amusing. Like "who the hell did she think she was?", kind of amusing. As the years went on and these small battles of will continued and increased in number and emotion, let me tell you... it became much less cute. 

I was never sure why these battles had to be fought, but they were fought very often. She appeared to want things her way almost all of the time. Is this a normal human instinct? It's like we could never put our guard down. I can't tell you how many times we have muttered the words "if we give her an inch, she takes a mile", throughout the past seventeen years. But again, in my heart I felt that these battles had to be won by Adam and Me. Because as the saying goes: Parents always know best.

Or do they? Now that she is seventeen and our other daughter, Kayla is almost sixteen, I can't say that with quite as much confidence. The world has changed so quickly, that apparently I have had some trouble keeping up. Teens are much more aware of the trends and the constantly shifting norms. Sometimes after talking to our girls, I feel like I grew up in Amish country like 100 years ago. They educate me about this new world and I usually feel overwhelmed and a bit shocked to realize all that they are confronted and bombarded with.  It's crazy. And we tried to run a pretty sheltered, tight ship here, when it came to raising our kids.

But at this time, when she was an adorable, attitude-filled baby, we did have the upper hand. She (mostly) listened when we reprimanded her, and if she didn't we could just pick her up and remove her from the tense situation. But as kids get older, it's certainly not that easy. Your grab-bag of distractions and tricks become less effective, and wow... is that frustrating. And it's also scary. 

I never would have imagined that I would need to mutter the words that we have all heard in so many movies and T.V. shows: "If you don't like it, there's the door, and good luck, because you're gonna need it.” But remembering all of the battles of will that we experienced, it wasn't surprising that when Jordan was fourteen, I felt that I did have to say that exact sentence to her. Thankfully, and probably because of her severe fears and anxiety, she never walked out the door. 

And believe me, that night I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

This history, our history, was a big part of the reason why initially, we were so confused with Jordan's diagnoses. She was always SO stubborn, and hard headed. She didn't like any idea or suggestion that wasn't hers, and she was rarely able to break away from her initial expectation. Not to mention that as kids get older, they are faced with more decisions, stress, peer pressure, doubts, and hormone levels. 

So, how are parents supposed to tell if the teen drama and angst is just an exaggerated version of the rigid attitude that was present throughout the years, or if it is a real chemical imbalance/mental illness? It's a tough question with probably a million answers. 

I guess I will just continue writing about it, and perhaps someday we will all get a little closer to figuring out an answer that is right for Us. 

Thank you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Quoting a Thanksgiving Day toast that is hard to argue.

Quote from a toast given by Jordan on Thanksgiving Day, 2012. I loved it so much that I had it put on a fridge magnet. 

"Life is beautiful and stupid,
but mostly stupid.
So enjoy the beautiful."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Trying Something A Little Different

I'm going to take a break from writing about Jordan's past and touch upon what seems like a much more relevant topic. I feel compelled to do this after receiving some emotional letters from different parents who are in the midst of watching their teens struggle in ways that they have never witnessed before. These parents are at a very difficult, confusing, scary time. A time when they feel forced to contemplate the use of therapy, a psychiatrist, and possibly medication. My heart goes out to these families. I remember this point in our lives very clearly, and it hurt. A lot.

I'm not sure if this will help, but back in 2011, I wrote in my journal a list of reasons why I thought that we needed to get Jordan professional help:

  • I'm resentful that we all need to walk on eggshells, and function around her moods. It's not healthy for all of us, as a family. We are too "in it".
  • We are learning and flailing, yelling and experimenting, and trying anything that we can, and it's not helping.
  • We threaten to take things away from her to motivate change, and then we never follow through. We don't have to. See feels so badly afterwards that she punishes herself much more harshly than we ever could.
  • She needs someone's help who doesn't take it personally, who isn't emotional, and who can give her skills and techniques without threats and promises and anger.
  • We are confused and confusing the situation, especially the older she gets. We take turns being rational to help avoid the blow ups.
  • It's really not fair to her if we let things continue on this way.
I wrote that on April 14th, 2011. She went to her first therapy session on June 11th, 2011. 

She didn't begin to take Lexapro for anxiety until August 10th, 2012. That was over a year later.

My list of reasons was pretty compelling. We were basically a dysfunctional mess. But it still took us over a year to take the leap into prescription medication. And once they were prescribed, we needed to watch for side effects. We were also told that they can take two to twelve weeks to set in, that bodies may develop a tolerance after a long period of time, and that weaning off of them can cause withdrawal symptoms... Hmmm. What other awesome facts can I tack onto this all inclusive list?

Oh, how about:  This is your child and you feel like you're conducting a chemistry experiment on her brain. A brain that is attached to a hormone filled, sleep deprived, stressed out, teenage body. "Come back in six weeks for a follow up visit and you can tell me how it's going."  Great.

My point in writing this is not to encourage or discourage seeking out professional help. It is to stress the point that as long as you are taking some sort of action to help your child, any kind of action, then that is enough for that moment. It has to be. 

Just being there and showing support, going through the emotions along with them, letting them know that you are concerned and that you will do anything to try to make it better because you love them; these are the things that they will ultimately remember. And doing them will hopefully help to make a difference in all of your lives.

No, it's never easy, but at least it's something. It helped us to navigate through some of our tougher times.

I hope that this helps with some of your more difficult times too.

Us too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wouldn't or Couldn't? I Just Knew That She Didn't.

At around seven months, Jordan's real personality started to shine. One time she was being so loud in the car that it was really distracting me. She was making non stop, random screeching sounds. This eventually lead to a yelling match between she and I. Here's how it played out: At first I calmly asked her to please stop yelling. After doing this many times with no success, I raised my voice and told her to stop. This only lead to her increasing her volume and intensity. She actually began to change the loudness and pitch of her screams. It seemed as if she was testing me; checking to see if Mommy really means it.  Well, this mommy did. But this mommy, while shouting back at her like a lunatic, was trying to pay more attention to the road than to her attitude-filled seven month old. And we wonder where the minivan-driving, soccer-mom, stereotype comes from. I must have looked like the poster child.

I never imagined that a child, at only seven months old, could manipulate and control her parent's reactions and emotions. But she was very good at it. Or was it that I was good at it?

At this point, Jordan's main goal in life appeared to be to pull herself up on her feet. At the couch, chairs, coffee table, it didn't matter where. As long as she was standing up, she was happy. She would then sit herself back down and move on to another location. Everything was great, except when she was in her crib. Sitting herself down in her crib...that for some reason, was a problem.  She refused to sit herself back down on her bottom. Every time. Every night. Here we go again. This led to a huge set back with the crying before bedtime. Just when we had gotten the whole self soothing situation under control, she had to learn to stand up.

At first she would be very pleased with herself while standing up in her crib. She would shout and cheer and basically have her own little party in there. But then she wouldn't sit down. Or was it that she couldn't sit down? Or maybe she just refused to sit herself down. I really have no idea. All I know is that once she realized that she was alone, and still standing up, she did not sit down. She banged and shook the crib bars and just lost it. Again. With that tortuous scream, which led to the frantic sobbing. The only way that she would go to sleep was if we went in and sat her down.

And I am proud to say that I didn't let it go on for nearly as long this time. I eased up a bit and eventually did what needed to be done. (Even though I had no idea why it was necessary). It's good to know that sometimes I relinquished the "power" and helped to make the situation easier for all of us.

But the question still stood: Why would we need to do this for her? Why wouldn't she just sit down on her own like she was able to do all day long, instead of working herself up into a frenzy? Maybe she was stubborn and just wanted us to come into her room. But she was only seven months old. That's a pretty advanced thought process for such a young child. Could she have been scared to sit down? I guess, but it seemed unlikely since she was able to do it throughout the rest of the day. Not surprisingly, I began to wonder if we were, again, by sitting her down, pandering to her needs.

I'm think that I'm beginning to see a pattern here. :/

Speaking about pandering to her needs, Adam and I had this great epiphany. We learned that if we put a few pacifiers in the crib with her (like at least five), she slept much better.  This way if she woke up, she would immediately see one of them, and put it in her mouth. Without any help from us. It was a beautiful thing.  A beautiful, self soothing thing. Of course at this point in time we didn't think about how much harder this would make it when taking those same pacifiers away.  Nope. It never even entered our minds.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, August 3, 2015

So Many Questions.

So after writing the last post I have been doing some self reflecting, some soul searching if you will. And the thought that keeps popping into my head? What the hell I was thinking? Why would a parent voluntarily listen to, and endure the screams of her child for hours, night after night? All of the angst and pain could have so easily been avoided. All I had to do was walk into her room, pick her up, and hug her up against me. But I didn't. And I'm trying to figure out the reasons why.

I know that I always worried about spoiling each one of my children. I, as a child, was the complete opposite of spoiled. My parents did not play, and I knew that at a very young age. But it worked for me. I was content, understood my boundaries and limits, and always knew what was expected of me. I saw kids who were spoiled and got anything that they wanted. Ultimately, they didn't seem happy, had trouble making friends, and made their parents miserable.

At the time of our self soothing phase, I was beginning to wonder if we jumped too quickly when Jordan cried. Adam and I talked about how to handle it. If we let her go when she was complaining and crying because she wanted her pacifier, she worked herself up into a frenzy. If we gave into the crying, then my fear was that we were spoiling her. Can you spoil such a young baby? I knew that toddlers threw tantrums, and that you sometimes needed to let them cry it out. We were not sure what to do about a six month old. My instinct was to do everything for Jordan so that things were easier for her. Help her to get the toy in her mouth, come over immediately when she cried. I tried to fight against those initial feelings because I figured that spoiling her would only be doing her a disservice later in life.

But after all this pondering and self doubt, I asked myself if I would have done it differently, if given the chance to do it all over again. And the ridiculously confusing answer to that is: No. Most likely I would have done things the same way...and I have no idea why. Am I stubborn and see it as a battle of wills that had to be won by the parent? (Adam would probably answer yes to that question). Do I really think that self soothing is necessary, and that children who are rocked to sleep every night are at a disadvantage? I'm not sure.

So the question is, and I probably have asked myself similar questions a million times while raising all three of our kids: do I think that the hours of crying "damaged" Jordan? I'm pretty confident that they didn't help her to feel secure and comfortable, but I'm not sure if they actually changed her brain chemistry to the point that she needs to be medicated today. I sure hope not.

What I'm beginning to understand since starting this blog, is that its purpose may be different than I had first imagined it to be. Actually, I'm not even sure if I ever really knew what its initial purpose was. But I think it is becoming more clear to me now. Due to the feedback that I have received so far, something has been made vividly apparent to me. Although Adam and I rate pretty damn high in the worry department, we are not the only parents who do worry, and who have questioned their past actions and decisions.

Isn't it reassuring to know that not only the worry, the guilt, and the self doubt, but also the joy, the wonder, and the love, are shared among us?

Us too.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

But I Read It In a Book

Like many parents back in the day, I read the books What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Expect The First Year. Reading these was a no-brainer. After all, they were "America's Bestselling Parenting Series."

When Jordan was six months old, I read that it was time to have her put herself to sleep. The official term was "self soothe". I figured how hard could this be? Everyone falls asleep.

I wish I would have kept the book. It said something to the effect that you should lie your baby down, tell her good night, tell her that you love her, and walk out. If your baby begins to cry, you wait it out for a given number of minutes, in the hopes that she will self sooth. I should have known after reading the sentence "If your baby begins to cry" that we were in trouble. Jordan sure did begin to cry. And she continued to cry for a very long time. So I would go in and reassure her that everything was fine and that it was time for sleep, and leave the room again. And again. And again. For hours.

It was explained this way: each night that you leave your baby alone, the amount of time that it takes for her to fall asleep will diminish. It also said that this whole procedure (for lack of a better word) will probably take about a week. After that week, Jordan should have been able to put herself to sleep calmly and without crying. But she couldn't. And she didn't. We worked on this for over a month. There were a lot of nights, and a lot of agony-filled nighttime hours, in that month.

The book made it sound so easy. In our case, it was not. The sound of your baby screaming, and I mean a heart wrenching, at the top of her lungs, scream... it was excruciatingly painful, like a pain beyond belief. And after she finally fell asleep, because she was so worked up, and sobbing so hard, her little body and chest would continue to sob and twitch . While she was sleeping. I asked myself why we were doing this. We were the ones making her hurt and suffer. Her mom and dad. Could this really have been what was best for our child?

Part of the problem was once I started this whole self soothing plan, I thought that it had to be completed. As I said before, I am a list person, very goal oriented. I figured that going in and picking her up while she was crying, well that would only reinforce the behavior. I guess I also thought that if I read it in a book, then it must be reliable, tried and true information. But behaviors and emotions are anything but predictable, and they are certainly not always easy to deal with.

I was definitely beginning to understand this much more clearly, after having Jordan.