Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Unknown Path




The next few pages in my journal were mixed with both positive and negative aspects.  The positives were, Jordan mentioned she realized we (well mostly Adam, because I was a bit of a hot head) helped her get through her down times, and understood this wasn’t how it was “supposed to be”. Impressive introspection, right?  This was absolutely necessary before she could accept and benefit from professional help. Not bad timing since I finally made my first few calls to therapists, and was anxiously awaiting a call back.  Woohoo!

Now for the negative aspects. You know when you haven’t seen a special relative in a long time, and you’re excited to “show off” your awesome kids? This particular relative watched me grow up, then raised two adorable kids, and now I was a mom.  Well, we were all invited to my cousin’s high school graduation party. (He was one of the two adorable kids I was talking about). I couldn’t wait for these significant people from my past, to meet my family.

For whatever reason, Jordan couldn’t pull herself together enough to go to the party. I explained to her that these people already love her, and can’t wait to meet/see her. I asked her to please go, because it was important to me; “If you can’t do it for yourself, please do it for me.” But she couldn’t, and she didn’t.   And I was hurt.  Angry and hurt.  What do you tell people when you get to a party with two of your three kids? I guess I could have lied and said she was sick, but I didn’t. I briefly explained that she was struggling and I couldn’t make her come. Talk about emotions getting stirred up.

Adam stayed home with her. This was another last minute change, equivalent to a hard kick in my gut, but we weren’t comfortable leaving our struggling, confused thirteen-year-old daughter alone all day.

Things were rough, but at least we were slowly getting ourselves on the right path.  That's something.  Plus, Kayla, Kevin and I had fun, and by the time we got home, I had recovered, emotionally.  Jordan was so apologetic, and I was sorry she missed out on a special day filled with unconditional family love.

We knew what our job was. We needed to stay focused and continue searching for a path that was best for Us.

Thank you.

Us Too


Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Squeaky Wheels

Ouch.

One night Kayla asked me to help paint her nails so they would look like basketballs. I told her I would after Kevin was done with his homework. Kevin struggled with spelling, writing and staying focused, so I sat with him each night.  Although it was frustrating, because he was a fourth grade boy forced to do tasks that were difficult for him, it's what we did.

When Kevin was done, (and me too, emotionally) I went into Kayla’s room. I sensed that she was already frustrated because it took me so long. but I attempted to paint the black lines on her nails. I messed up on the first try, which isn't surprising because painting nails was not my thing. So now I’m annoyed and pushed to my limits, and she started crying. When I felt pressured and stressed I tended to verbally spew out everything on my mind, and that's what I did. I went on about how I had "had it" with all of their needs, and how homework does, and will always, be more important than nail painting…

Even through her tears she spoke so eloquently about how I upset her and how she waited patiently for me. She was beautifully honest. In her opinion I needed to help Kevin with his homework way too much, because “he must know how to spell those words”. He struggled academically in a way she couldn’t understand.  I instantly calmed down and began listening to her, because I had to. She was right. With all the drama going on with Jordan and Kevin's nightly homework episodes, she tended to get overlooked.

 Cringe.

I apologized and explained how when I was angry, I tended to lash out and say things without thinking. I told her I was proud that she shared her feelings with me, and how grown up and mature she behaved. She was eleven, and she amazed me.  It was at this moment I decided we would stay overnight for her next basketball tournament, so we could go to Dorney Park with some of her teammates. We had planned to go to the games, but not stay overnight. I wasn’t comfortable going without Adam, especially since the other parents who were staying overnight were all men. Picture me with three other dads, riding on the coasters. I was out of my comfort zone, but I did it, and Kayla and I had fun. Plus, she made a right handed layup in one of the games. :)

Sometimes kids really do make the best teachers.

Thank you.

Us Too

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Never Just About a Shirt



For those of you who may be traveling this winter, I feel for you especially if you have strong willed kids. Spending the holidays with family is a time to be cherished, it's how traditions and special memories are created. That's the Hallmark version.  It can also be a time when blood pressure has the tendency to sky rocket, fingernails are reduced to stubs, and quite frankly, the caloric intake reaches sickening levels      What??  Isn't this how everyone reacts?

Obviously kids aren't the only ones who feel the stress of traveling.  Moving in with another family, even for a short time, can be tough. It's hard not to notice different parenting styles when you're all smashed into one living space.  At home we tried to keep our lives as predictable and orderly as possible, because when you have one child who gets thrown off by any unexpected change, you get amazingly efficient at scheduling. But when we traveled we tended to acquiesce to the rules of the household we were visiting. What choice did we have? Tell Jordan to go to bed earlier than the others, because "You know how you get"? Yeah, that would have gone over real well.

Our kids only have four first cousins. Two boys live five minutes away. The other two boys live seven hours away. We tried to make the longer trip at least every other year when the kids were younger. The cousins were good friends and have been getting together yearly since they were born,
so in theory, these visits should have been a blast. Don't get me wrong, when we look back at the trips, we all smile. That being said, there were usually moments of intense emotion because Jordan was pushed to her limits.

On one particular trip, Jordan missed the first three innings of her cousin's baseball game because Kayla wouldn't let her wear a shirt that was brought by, and belonged to, Kayla.  Picture four loud kids and five adults all trying to leave the house at the same time, while one child is locked in a room unable to break herself out of the cycle of despair and anger. Eventually everyone else left, and I stayed back with her. I'm sure initially she and I were both feeling angry and embarrassed, but we talked it out like we always did, and made it to the game.

This was by no means the first time a situation like this evolved while spending time with family, so no one was shocked by her behavior. That being said, inevitably someone would ask where Jordan was or what was wrong with her. It was difficult for me to explain why she behaved the way she did. Keep in mind she wasn't diagnosed yet, so what could I say to help other's understand?  I didn't even fully understand myself. I usually explained it this way: This is just how she is, she really can't help it, and she isn't trying to mess up anyone's plans.  It usually ended with a sentence that helped to reassure the person affected, (this time it was her baseball-playing cousin) that it had absolutely nothing to do with him. 

For every heated moment we were faced with, there were hundreds of beautiful, loving moments too. Jordan was (and still is) a wonderful, smart, caring, funny, passionate girl, who has a million gifts to share.  I'm not sure why, but I felt the need to say this. :)

Thank you.

Us Too



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Much Needed Positivity



Jordan returned from a three day, two night school-sponsored trip to Cape Henlopen, and she had a blast!  I couldn't have been more happy for her!!

I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned before she left, especially since worrying, preparing and packing took her longer than the duration of the trip.  I would also be lying if I admitted that the two nights she was away, didn't feel like a much needed respite. (Hmm... I wonder if this also held true for her.)

But Jordan did it, and she enjoyed it!  My baby was spreading her wings and learning to fly.  :)

Thank you.

Us Too



Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Ramblings of a Madwoman



In the post Unseen Signs, I mentioned I thought we may need to help Jordan because I feared she would burn out by high school. That was written in October, 2011. By the time April came around (only six months later) I was more than just mentioning it. The following is what was written in my journal. Warning ~ It's a mess of rambling thoughts and emotions.


We need to get her help. Adam just spent 40 minutes talking to her while she sobbed, and I ran. I brought her dinner up to her room and she apologized, saying she doesn't know how we put up with her. She said she can't help it. I hate when she's hard on herself afterwards. She appears so self aware and mature, it's like she's a different child once the storm passes. Adam and I sometimes handle it well, but not all the time. We both yell at her. We resent and get angry and don't always hold back our emotions. I have come close to losing it more than once. I'm sick of us having to walk on eggshells and function around her moods. It's not healthy for us as a family. At times we have solutions and stories and words, but we're too emotionally IN it. We're learning and flailing and experimenting and trying things. We're yelling that we're going to take her out of every after school function one minute, and then telling her how great she is, and how proud we are, the next. And we never follow through with our threats, because afterwards she feels so guilty and remorseful that we feel we don't need to, We know she can't help it. We really do believe that. I feel badly for her, and I have since she slammed her head into her crib bars and tried to rip her door off it's hinges. (I'm not sure how this little tidbit was omitted from my journal, but I vaguely remember it happening.) I want her to be happy and I honestly think she needs professional help. Help from someone who isn't emotional, doesn't take it personally, can give her skills and techniques without threats and promises and anger.
We are confused and confusing the situation more and more as she gets older. We take turns being rational to avoid the blow ups. She should sleep more, but we have no control over her bedtime, especially if she has homework. Her perfectionism is a real problem. It's not fair to her if we let this continue- hoping we figure it out, searching for what works each time. Hoping we don't get too emotional the next time. Hoping we had a good enough day, or are in good enough moods to be able to handle her moods and emotions.
And that is why I think we need to get her help from someone who is not Us.

So that's how things were going, and how I was dealing.  Yeah.

I think it's blatantly obvious that we needed help, but it took a long time, even from this point, until we got it. Here's my advice to those who may be struggling:  Do not wait as long as we did.  There is help and hope out there, and life really shouldn't be that hard.

Thank you.

Us Too


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Two Small, Simple Reminders



Happy Thanksgiving!

"When asked if my
cup is half-empty
or half-full,
my only response is
that I am thankful I have a cup." :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stuck Again



Five seemingly endless days later, Jordan and her friend made up. Woot! They apologized to each other on Facebook, and all was right with the world. Or so you would think. It was the week before spring break, so the 7th grade school workload was piling up. Jordan had a one (yes, one) to five minute oral report to prepare for, and it wasn’t going well. The problem? Jordan believed the antagonist from the book was the character’s cerebral palsy, while her teacher informed the class that the antagonist had to be a character in the story.


She was seriously stuck, and nothing could be said or done to get her unstuck. Believe me, we tried. We gave her suggestions, spoke rationally, tried to wait it out... all to no avail. She cried from 6:00 to 9:00pm. Three long hours. I would like to say these three hours were the most trying of my life, but they weren't. As you're probably well aware, this was not the first time Jordan's emotions pushed her to the brink.

I'm not sure why my brain is taking me here, but I'm gonna run with it...
Listening to your infant screaming while having absolutely no idea why, it was like participating in a gut wrenching guessing game. I remember thinking nothing could be worse than this. Man, was I wrong. Helplessly watching Jordan begin to drown in overwhelming hopelessness when she was thirteen... that was worse.

I think people have certain expectations of thirteen year olds. We assume they have the ability to communicate and articulate their desires and feelings. Unlike infants, teens are capable of speaking, reasoning and listening. Unless they aren't.

When they aren't (or won't??) believe me, it's not easy or fun.

Thank you.

Us Too

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Parental Fears vs.Reality


Even though Jordan was blatantly being avoided by most of her “friend” group, there were two sweet girls who had the guts to go against the majority. They invited Jordan to a trampoline park, and she came home in such a good mood. I can’t tell you how nice it was to see her smile.


I’m not sure how or why her mood began to change, but it did. By 11:00 that night she was miserable. How does someone go from euphoric jumping and laughing, to being incapable of putting on her pajamas?

Needless to say, I was getting more and more angry by the minute. I thought the whole situation was crap and she was completely playing and manipulating me, to get a reaction. Cringe. It was as if all those non-productive, parental fears (you know... the ones no one likes to admit to, but during certain times of weakness, we sometimes let sneak into our thought patterns) were relentlessly slamming me down:
  • Our child will have no friends.
  • Our child will not be able to take care of herself.
  • Our child will be unhappy.
  • We will lose control of our child.
  • We are going to screw up our child.
More often than not, Adam was the voice of reason. This was probably true because when one parent is losing it, the other tends to instinctively keep it together. He explained to me that we needed to be calm and speak with a matter-of-fact tone, because if we reacted with anger or emotion, it would only make things worse. I can certainly attest to that, but I was pissed!

This tends to sound so emotional and dire, and I guess at times our lives may have felt that way, but these posts are only short snippets of our story. Life has, and probably will continue to be, filled with ups and downs. And it's okay.

Adam, continuing to be the voice of reason that he is, assures me that the struggles we face today, can ultimately provide us with the tools necessary to achieve success later in life. I sure hope he's right.

Thank you.

Us Too





Saturday, November 11, 2017

We Are ALL Different



Something else made my heart twinge more than the fact that Kayla wouldn't want to be friends with her older sister; As a child, I wouldn't have chosen to hang out with a kid like Jordan either. Unless, of course, she happened to run. ;)

Notice I said it made my heart twinge. It doesn't anymore. It's funny, I think before people have kids, everyone kind of pictures them as mini-clones of themselves. This is so not how it works.

Yes, if our kids are very different than we were (or are) life will probably be more challenging, but having Jordan as my daughter has helped open my eyes, my mind and especially my heart to all types of people.

Apparently my way is, and has never been, the only way. Huh... Who knew??

Thank you.

Us Too





Thursday, November 9, 2017

A New Mortal Enemy and Enlightenment



What’s the one scenario you would be least likely to hope for when one of your kids is in a fight with her best friend? How about having that best friend reach out to another one of your kids?  Kayla began “discussing” (aka texting) the situation with Jordan’s New Mortal Enemy (NME).  

My first instinct was no way, because everyone knows how the wonderful world of middle school drama works. There are two sides, and everyone is either on one or the other. All of a sudden I was annoyed, and left wondering, what the heck happened to Team Beck? It was then, that Kayla enlightened me.


Apparently, both Jordan and NME were saying the exact same things about each other. Go figure. They had very similar personalities. Both were intelligent girls who could be mean, moody, over controlling, and confident--while also being insecure. (Not the easiest personality-trait combo.) Kayla told me she wouldn’t be friends with either of them, and that most of the issues brought up were exactly what she had dealt with growing up with Jordan. Why would she take her sister's side? Hearing Kayla voice this realization still makes my heart twinge a little, even today.

I did the Mom-thing, explaining how it wasn't easy for Jordan to be the way she was, and that she really couldn't help her behaviors. If she could, wouldn't she ease up and change, in order to avoid the pain and conflict? I'm sure this was a tough pill for Kayla to swallow. Hell, when I was in the midst of the emotional arguments, I had trouble believing she couldn't control her actions. (Not surprisingly, this led to numerous future, cringe-filled moments.)

But she was our child. There was so much more to her than the argumentative, difficult, angry behaviors we were sometimes presented with. I'm glad I realized this back then. We raised her, and we were well aware of the many facets that made Jordan...Jordan. We knew the funny, sarcastic, confident, caring, smart, sensitive, love-filled Jordan. We, meaning Adam and I, just needed the understanding, patience, and the guidance before we were able to help her find her happiness and her wholeness.

Thank you.

Us Too









Friday, November 3, 2017

A Post Filled With Gratitude



Within the past few days I've received some positive feedback from some very special people. I would like to take a few minutes to express my gratitude. Some even told me they took the time to read Us Too from its very beginning. That requires some kick-butt discipline. :) Thank you!


I realize the posts are getting more emotional, and possibly more uncomfortable, especially for those who know us. Like many families, we basically had to hit, what felt like rock-bottom. Only then were we ready and capable of beginning the frightening, all-engulfing search for help.


Oh, and one more thing… please keep in mind that the Us Too Story took place in the past.  Now that Jordan is away at college, does she still have bouts of anxiety and depression (it’s actually more like sadness now), and struggle with dermatillomania? Of course she does.

But our story has improved one million percent since the time Jordan was in middle school. We are no longer controlled by the anger and fear. Today, instead of asking ourselves the reactionary, unproductive, emotional question: "Why us?", we try to take proactive steps towards helping Jordan get through the rough patches.

And if the Becks can do it, anyone can!

Thank you.

Us Too



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Maybe Middle School Does Suck




You know how when someone mentions the words middle school, most adults groan and cringe? I never truly understood this reaction until watching Jordan try to navigate her way through. Sure, I look at the pictures of myself in middle school and cringe, (the hair and clothes of the early eighties... need I say more?) but I don't equate this time as being sad and angst filled. Was it awkward? Sure. But miserable? Not that I remember.

Now I better understand the negative reaction. During this time things were so rough in the Beck household, that we felt obligated to take away Jordan’s cell phone. Her lifeline. Ouch. Simultaneously, Jordan’s best friend decided to hate, and completely ignore Jordan, while she (in the typical middle school fashion) strategically pulled the rest of the friend group away with her. Perfect.

All of this led to yet another ridiculously trying night. Jordan was sobbing in her bed and I was desperately trying to console her. In the past Jordan would reluctantly latch onto something I said, no matter how minuscule it may have been. This would inevitably lead us to some sense of closure, resolve, and much needed relief at the end of the day.

But it appeared those days were disappearing from our nightly routines. Nothing I said helped. Actually, much of what I said made her more upset, more angry, She reacted as if I had no clue, and worse than that, no right to voice my opinion. Excuse me? You won't even try to accept my help? As you can imagine, with my competitive, but also so very empathetic personality (when it came to my kids), this did not sit well.

Instantly I felt I was being cascaded into unprecedented levels of anger and hurt. Not a good combination. It killed me to see her suffering and I would have done anything to help her, but she refused to let me.

And I was very resentful.

Thank you.

Us Too

Saturday, October 28, 2017

If I Knew Then What I Know Now...



Here’s the parental logic Adam and I were trying to implement. You tell me if you think it makes sense. Since it was taking Jordan over two hours to get ready for bed, and she wasn’t getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night, out of desperation we came up with a solution:  Maybe Jordan should give up a couple of the extra curricular activities that were taking up so much of her time.  Makes sense, right? Aside from her advanced classes in 7th grade, she was in Builder’s Club, intramural volleyball, and three choirs. That’s right, I said three. 

 By pulling back, one could assume there would be more time to get homework done, more down time to chill and regroup, and hence... she would get to bed earlier. Problem solved. Except she informed us that even if she had no homework, and didn’t stay after school, she would still get to bed late. Um, may I ask why? (Not sure if asked her this or not, but I assume at this point, she wouldn't have been able to verbalize an answer anyway. Just a hunch.)

Here’s what was written in my journal: "Why? On Purpose? OCD?? Why??" So yes, I was acknowledging that there was a problem, but I was also getting hyped. We knew she needed to do more than just study to have a well rounded life. We also realized we were suggesting she drop all the things she took pleasure in, but as I wrote "I get angry and resentful because she is slowly sucking the life out of me. The struggles keep coming back again and again. This is a pain (literally)."

Wait! This is it! I think this is why I'm sharing our story. 

I knew things weren't going well. I wrote about it, repeatedly. Jordan was miserable, I was slowly going down the emotional toilet, and Adam and I were frantically grasping to find solutions. We were doing our best, but we weren't succeeding. We weren't doing enough.

That being said, if you or your loved ones are struggling and feel like you're banging your heads up against a wall, please realize that you don't have to go through it alone. There's no shame in asking for help. Actually (in my humble opinion) the act of admitting and realizing you can't handle something on your own, is one of the bravest, most admirable traits a person can possess.  


Thank you.

Us Too





Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Going Through the Motions


My journal entry on 3/16/2011 was succinct and completely summed up how I was feeling. It wasn't pretty:


“Not very happy lately. Still running around 4 times a week,
but only out of necessity, not enjoyment.
I never want to do anything, and I do things only out of
necessity. I'm having trouble concentrating at school, remembering
the kid’s names and the lessons for first graders. Dawned on me
while running that I think I might need anti depressants. I may
talk to Adam about this soon if I keep feeling this way.”

So...yeah. Obviously, I was a mess. The funny thing was, I knew it. I wrote in my journal as if someone would pick it up and read it, feel sorry for me, and guide me in the right direction. Of course that didn't happen because the only person who could do that... was me.

I have always kept a journal to help process my thoughts and work through the crap. I would quickly spew the emotions (good or bad) onto the pages, with the hopes that the words would serve as an outlet, and if necessary, push me towards a positive solution. This had been effective for years.

The problem was, my two fool-proof coping mechanisms; running and journaling, were no longer helping. They weren't enough. And that could only mean trouble. Especially if your seventh grader, who was already struggling with the ability to budget her time and carry through with basic life skills, was instantly shut out by one of her best friends.

Oh, the good times they were a-coming...

Thank you.

Us Too



Monday, October 16, 2017

To Face or Not to Face Your Demons



I’ve never been one to remember small details, so I didn’t recall the content in the next section of my journal. Yesterday I asked Jordan if she remembered it. (She was home for the weekend :) because she was having a hard time coping with… well, with life :(. It happens sometimes, and I love that we can still be there to support and help her regroup, refocus, and get back on track. It's one of the many benefits of having your child go to a college close to home.)


I inquired: “Do you remember when you had a chart in your room to help keep track of how long it took to get into the shower and put your clothes away?”  She said she did remember, and she "hated it".  Well okay then.  

I, on the other hand, did not hate it, and I'll tell you why... I was quite pleased with this chart for one reason, and one reason only; we were witnessing positive results. She was in bed before 10:00 for an entire week! More sleep can never be a bad thing.

Obviously, filling out this chart was rough for Jordan. It was work. It held her accountable for her behaviors, behaviors she was being told, by her parents, needed to be changed. How many thirteen year old girls do you know, who would enjoy doing a task like this?

It was almost as if we were putting her through a simple form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). One definition of CBT is:
  • a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.  
Jordan hated CBT then, and still refuses to try it today.  She's aware that the research claims it's "one of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem. It is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression."

She tried it once years ago, and was convinced that it made her life more difficult. Well sure it did. That's basically the point; to push through and get past the crap, until you realize it's possible to live life without these negative patterns. It's no wonder this type of therapy is such a hard sell, especially for those who battle with anxiety on a day to day basis. They're told; "You may get better, but only if you push yourself to the breaking point, by facing your demons. Oh yeah, and you need to do this totally independently. Good luck  We'll check back in at our next session."  

Ugh, right? It's a good thing many of those who struggle are "superheroes", because it sounds like a prerequisite for this type of request would be to have some kind of secret superpower at your disposal.

Thank you.
Us Too






Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Unseen Signs

with lots of trial and error.

Let the fun begin.  As I slowly advance through my journal I’m beginning to notice a few common themes. Let’s see if you come up with some of the same conclusions that I have, after I share some quotes from my next few pages:

  • “Jordan is getting a bit out of control with her bedtime and morning routine.” 
  • “Not acceptable!”
  • “By Friday she is evil.” 
  • “Her weekends are miserable, she’s moody all day.”
  • “She only had two assignments for homework, but missed a party and a basketball game because she didn’t get them done.”
  • “She doesn’t have to be perfect!”
  • “We may need to get her help with this or she’s going to burn out before high school.”
  • “I may try a chart so she can keep track of how long it takes to wash her face and pick out clothes, so maybe she'll see a pattern or something.”
  • “Sleep and food are most important!”  That was Adam's thing, and still is. ;) 
  • “At 13 you should really be able to feed yourself so you don’t become evil!”  Cringe, because apparently this was said to her.
  • "We want to help her but she's so stubborn and refuses to help herself."
  • "She makes things worse and it's so hard to want to help someone who does that over and over again."
Do you notice any patterns? Does anything come screaming out at you, like it does to me? Because now that I have lived through it, it all seems so very clear; Jordan was slowly cascading into a world of crisis.  And my reactions were judgmental and emotion-filled. Hence the number of exclamation points and descriptive words (aka name calling?).  Cringe.  Although, at least I was trying to come up with some possible solutions..

I see things clearly now, but when I was living through it, all I could see was fear and anger. I think we as parents are always looking for a reason why. Why is she struggling so much? Why is life so difficult for her? 

Unfortunately, I think the typical parental answer to that question, at least when the struggle is so new and so raw (not sure I have the right to say this) is to "blame" the child. "If only my child would do the homework, accept the help, eat more food, eat less food, be less aggressive, be more aggressive, go to bed, hang out with friends, text me more, be more responsible, study more, try harder, stop being rude, listen to me, do the chores, not be so sensitive, so talkative, so mouthy, so angry, so unhappy, so...  See what I mean? 

It's a hard habit to break, stopping the judgmental finger pointing, but I'm proof that even if it takes a very long time, it can be done. That being said, you may want to brace yourself because it took me years to figure it out. And years fill up a lot of emotion-filled pages, in a lot of journals. 

Thank you.

Us Too