Saturday, April 23, 2016

What Comes Up Must Come Down

Jordan loved Kevin more than anything. At Thanksgiving dinner, she said she was most thankful for him. She constantly told him she loved him, but while saying it, she would hit him in the stomach and intensely gnaw her teeth together. It wasn't a hard hit, but still. It was as if she would do whatever it took to get a reaction or a smile out of her baby brother. She would make strange noises, sit on him, touch and poke him, or put her face an inch away from his. It was incessant.

She would also sit on Kayla (who at the time was two and a half) saying it was because she loved her so much. She would repeatedly tease and taunt her. As you can imagine, Kayla was not thrilled with her big sister. It was tough to take. There were many times when I did think her energy level was extreme, or manic, but I didn't really worry. Because when she was at preschool, she was very well behaved, and probably one of the quietest, most conscientious kids in the class. I guess, if anything, I wondered why our house was so exciting or stimulating for her. Or maybe she was just bored.

But even when we went shopping, she would act goofy, making animated noises and move around excitedly. This was in front of other people. It was such a change from the self conscious behaviors we were used to seeing from her, especially when out in public. I was glad she wasn't worried about what others thought, but it was a bit much at times. I assumed she behaved this way in order to fight for my attention, now that there were three kids, all vying for it at the same time.

When I think about this today, I feel I may have a better understanding of what was going on. It seems as if her internal emotions were almost too intense for her to handle. Even the positive happy ones, that I described as the ups. They made it difficult for Jordan to control her actions and behaviors.

I kind of picture it like a tornado. It starts out as a mellow, everyday storm. But the more stimuli the storm comes in contact with, the more strength it gains.

Everyday life, for kids like Jordan, is a constant bombardment of stimulation. It doesn't matter if the events are good, bad, or mundane. The more stimulation... the stronger the emotions.

So for Jordan, a day full of highs, or even "mediums" (which for most, would be described as a routine day) would almost inevitably end in a night filled with lows.

And the Beck household had our fair share of those.

Thank you.

Us Too

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The "What-Ifs" of Life

As I began to read over my next journal, when Jordan was almost four, I was confused as to what I should share. Much of this journal described happy moments, some which included the numerous times she told me she loved me. She and Kayla also held hands quite often, and said they loved each other. My favorite was when Jordan said to Kayla, “It's Bring-a-Friend-Day at the Little Gym. You can come because you are my best friend, and I love you, and I won't be lonely with my sister there."

I swear, this made me feel as I had imagined the Grinch felt, when his heart GREW three sizes that day.

But let's face it, all these positive scenarios don't really play into the theme of this blog, which is trying to identify/deal with possible personality/chemical/mental health disorders. So why am I including them?

Because they help bring out an important, although sometimes overlooked point: People with diagnosed chemical imbalances may come across as quirky or different, but they are still loving, caring, functioning (albeit, sometimes with the necessary help) human beings. They experience the ups and downs of life, as everyone does.  But a common (yet important) distinction to be aware of is; their emotions typically appear to be more extreme or drastic. Yes, even the ups can be more intense, and more impassioned.

In this next section of my journal, when describing Jordan's behaviors, I wrote the word "manic" quite a few times. I wasn't worried then, I was only making observations. But today, I do find myself worrying (or at least thinking about the "what-ifs") a bit. What if her previous behaviors, even if they don't appear to be relevant today, come to surface at a later time in her life?

But remember that package I mentioned a few entries ago, and how all of this should be thought of as a gift? Well, from my limited experience and knowledge about Bipolar Disorder, (and yes, I do realize that this is yet another time when I would like to have control, but understand clearly that I do not)... this is one part of the gift that I would rather she not receive.

Thankfully, Jordan has not been diagnosed with Manic Depression or Bipolar Disorder.  And, you know what? For today, that's good enough for me. :)

Thank you,

Us Too

Thursday, April 14, 2016

September 11, 2001

It was found in the blog World of Psychology, that:
The severity of children’s reactions has been positively correlated with parental distress (parental post-traumatic stress and crying in front of the child) and with the number of graphic images seen on television.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have distracted Jordan so she didn't witness the horrific images being continuously shown. But no matter how impossibly unbelievable the images were, I was shocked and almost mesmerized, as was the rest of the world.

I thought I would leave this journal entry exactly as I had written it over fifteen years ago. Because this day changed everything, and affected everyone, including our children.

September 11, 2001:

A Day No One Will Ever Forget

This day will forever be etched into our minds. Everyone knows exactly what they were doing when they discovered that America was under attack. The kids and I were all in the living room watching Sesame Street. I was probably one of the few people who didn't have their show interrupted by the media. Adam called me from work and told me what was happening. That's when I changed the channel and saw the surreal footage being played, again and again. 

That first plane crashing into 1 World Trade Center, in my mind, had to be a bizarre accident. But then fifteen minutes later, the second plane crashed into the South Tower. I still couldn't let myself believe that this was a terrorist attack on the United States. Things like that just didn't happen.

But they do. And they did.

Within the next forty minutes it was discovered that two more planes had been hijacked. One crashed down in a field in Shanksville, PA, and one flew directly into the Pentagon. All of these buildings and planes had people in them. Sons, daughters, wives, husbands, children, grandchildren... It was inconceivable, everything that was happening right before our eyes.

I wondered what kind of world our kids were going to grow up in. It felt like a movie. But it wasn't. It was really happening, and thousands of people had lost someone they loved. I felt lucky we didn't lose anyone close to us, but just knowing the pain that so many others felt, almost caused an internal sense of guilt. Maybe it was because I grew up in Long Island, and New York City was, in my mind, the ONLY city. 

As I watched the footage, which was almost addictive, I never really thought about the effect that it could have on our kids. I just categorized all three of them as babies. But Jordan was not a baby. She was three years and eight months old, and she was taking it all in.

Here's how I know. She woke up at 4:15 am the following night and said that she was “afraid of the dark”. She never did that. I couldn't sleep either. It felt wrong to sleep while so many other people were hurting. I worried that we were at war, and wondered if the United States would begin to draft men who were in their thirties, even those who were raising young kids. Men like Adam.

The next day we all heard a loud truck go by and Jordan said it sounded like a plane crashing into a building. I told her that we were safe in our house, (were we?) but I had to admit that my heart jumped at the sound too. The world felt like a crazy place. 

It began to rain, and I worried about all the rescue personnel who were out there searching for survivors. While watching the service at the National Cathedral I cried, and Jordan lay her head down on me and hugged me. She was such a special little girl.

The next day I told the girls that Grandma Weeze and Grandpa Tony were coming back from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Jordan asked if it was safe to fly. How do you answer that question? We told her that yes, it was. They did have to stay an extra three days, since all planes were initially grounded. It was scary. When they got here, she wanted to know if they were in New York City when the planes crashed into the buildings. This made Adam cry.

On the drive to an orchard, she saw a building and said “That building can fall down, or planes can hit it like the city buildings.” A week later when Jordan was playing, she said to herself “People died in the plane fire. Why did they? Because they had to, that's why.” 

This was the epitome of a young child, who was trying to make sense out of something that was completely and utterly senseless.

Thank you.

Us Too

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Intrusive Thoughts and Superheroes

As if anxiety isn't hard enough to live with, let's tack on some intrusive thoughts, just to make life a little more exciting. Are you kidding me?

Anxiety Treatment Specialist,  Martin N. Seif, Ph.D. believes that:

"Every highly anxious person has to cope with intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are frightening thoughts about what might happen to you or someone you care about, or what you might do to yourself or another person. They seem to come from outside of your control, and their content feels alien and threatening."

Jordan was dealing with this when she was younger, and we had no idea. She didn't tell us because she thought everyone had these types of thoughts. She had no idea that it wasn't "normal" (whatever that means). She didn't realize this until her first visit to a psychiatrist.

If she saw a train track, she would think about how easy it would be to throw herself onto it when a train came. Or she would picture herself jumping off a bridge or walking in front of a moving car. I told her that at times, I also wondered what would happen if.. but her answer to that was "But this was all the time".

Could you imagine having these types of thoughts all the time? Because I couldn't. And it's no wonder Jordan isn't driving yet. She used to have a recurring nightmare that when she drove with all five of us in the car. we would crash, and the four of us would die. Damn.

I have had anxiety dreams before, but nothing like this. 

So obviously, being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is way different than "having" anxiety. There are many people currently medicated for anxiety, Me being one of them. But GAD is a whole package of thoughts and life altering symptoms, that have the tendency to effect a person's quality of life.

The people who I know and love, who seem to have been graced with this "package" of crap... I mean, this package of diagnoses and symptoms, also appear to have been given many gifts. They are highly intellectual, have vivid imaginations and incredible memories, great communication skills, both written and verbal, as well as being acutely sensitive. Now, these don't sound so bad, do they?

So maybe instead of stigmatizing, pitying, or fearing what is not fully understood, people will look up to, and be in awe of, those who struggle. Because if you really think about it, with all that they have to contend with, they are kind of like superheroes. 

Perhaps one day, this will be seen less like a mental package, and more as a "gift".

Thank you,

Us Too

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Search For Our New Normal (Whatever That Is)

I realize why I didn't write much in my journal, about Jordan's whole thumbs up/get a book, reward system. The reason? The birth of our loving son, Kevin Vincent. Having three kids under the age of three and a half... it was like being sucked into an emotional whirlwind, that wouldn't stop spinning.

There were moments that made my heart swell beyond what I thought possible. Times when I felt like the luckiest, most fortunate person in the would. Having three beautiful, perfect kids, felt like a gift. The gift of life. It was at this time that Jordan muttered some of the most beautiful words ever spoken by one of our children. When she met Kevin in the hospital, for the first time, she said "No one is going to be mean to my baby brother." It was music to my new-momma ears.

I was living in this perceived world of perfection, until four days later. It was then that I was thrown back into our new reality. Jordan asked me: "After the baby dies, will you take Me and Kayla places again?" This one simple question almost knocked the wind out of me.

I calmly told her that we are keeping Kevin forever, and soon we will go places together again. She informed me that she was not going to die for a long time, and the conversation ended.

And then I cried. Hard. Because she was confused, and she didn't understand why her life was different. All she knew was that mommy was not taking her places like she used to. Mommy was spending time with Baby Kevin (while also recovering from a tubalectomy). I didn't worry about her bringing up the topic of death, because I didn't think that she really understood much about it. But hearing the word "dies" in the same sentence as your new born baby boy, it was rough.

I was already a mess of hormones, I was in pain, and now I realized how much she wanted our lives to get back to normal. To be honest, so did I.

Besides me getting to reminisce about another one of the most wonderful days in my life, there is another reason why I'm sharing this story. A "mental health" reason. Ahhh, finally.  

I'm sharing this story because I was unaware that one symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is having intrusive thoughts. I didn't even know what those were, until Jordan began filling out the many tedious, personal, invasive questionnaires about herself, for therapists and psychiatrists.

So her innocent comments about death, when she was three and a half, stirred up memories for me. Memories of when I learned about the intrusive thoughts that she had once experienced.

That's something I assume no parents would ever expect to hear. I sure didn't.

Thank you,

Us Too

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Small Retraction From Yesterday's Post

Oooh, now that's good...

After a conversation with Adam, I would like to change the phrase that I used in yesterday's post from: "Wallowing in self pity seems self defeating, and only prolongs the misery" to: "Being depressed sucks, and no one could possibly want to feel that way". 

It's all very confusing, especially when your own child is involved. It's a whole mixture of anger, frustration, guilt, insecurity, blame, and fear. But thankfully it all stems from a giant, one-of-a-kind, place of  love. 

Still not always easy, but we have to keep trying.

Thank you.

Us Too

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's A Personal Journey

According to Jordan, because the thumbs-down behavior happened earlier in the day, we didn't "need to talk about it now". It's interesting that even before she was four years old, she didn't want to talk about the times in her life that were uncomfortable or difficult.

Many times throughout the years she has said to me "Why would I want to talk about, and remember the terrible times?  Then I have to relive them over again, and I want to block them out." Now that's honesty.

This is why Jordan won't journal, and why she hated going to therapists. After all, therapists help you talk about your issues, so you can hopefully come up with ways to overcome them. Not pleasant, but usually beneficial, and (I think) at times, necessary.

At this point you're probably blatantly well aware, that I have absolutely no problem rehashing all of the crap and messes of life. It actually helps me to come to terms with it. Without writing or talking about something, I can't move on. I guess it doesn't work that way for everyone. Although I was nervous and uncomfortable knowing that I would probably cry in front of a stranger, overall, I didn't mind seeing a therapist. I actually found it to be validating and calming.

I'm not going to lie. Watching people refuse help, or not take the steps needed to attempt to move forward, frustrates the poop out of me. Wallowing in self pity seems self defeating, and only prolongs the misery.

But then again, I was a depressed, anxious mess for a while. It's not like on day-one of feeling this way, I woke up, scheduled a therapy appointment and began popping Zoloft pills. I do realize that it's a journey. A torturous, confusing, scary journey. And it's different for everyone.

Which is exactly why it's so difficult to watch a loved one refuse to help themselves.

I get it, but that doesn't mean I like it.

Thank you,

Us Too