With all the HYPE…

With all the HYPE….

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With all the HYPE…

The Conneticut tragedy is still not far from my mind, I have read the account in the book, Columbine, and the area of mental health fascinates me.  If I could ever pass statistics, I would consider another Master’s in Psych or a focus in mental health for a PhD.  It’s that math thing that trips me up every time.  ANYWAY!!!

This day of all days has special significance for me.  It is  day which will be forever etched in the recesses of my mind, sometimes I take it out, look at it and feel immense guilt.  Other times I look at it from afar and wonder how in the world I made it through that time, still others I am thankful to observe from a more detached place where we were then and where we are now- 2 years later.

Lots of people are talking about the impacts of mental health and the need for more research and conversation surrounding these issues.  I would agree, but I would offer a word of caution as well.  Having a mental illness does not pre-determine an individual to violent behavior anymore than a person with heart disease or diabetes does.  It is something that needs to be recognized, honored, and treated.  Note that I included the word honored, here.  Just as we honor people with any disability or injury…or scratch that..We honor people simply because that is what they are, PEOPLE.  We honor one another  because it is part of human nature–because we MUST.

2 years ago I admitted my son to a psych floor at a local mental hospital.  It was the hardest moment of my life and I have written about it before–the sound of the locked door shutting….the feel of my keys in my hand that I could not use to save him.  I worked there at the time as a Chaplain and there was nothing I could do to rescue him, it was not my place to rescue him and I still can’t.

Many will continue to talk in the coming weeks and months about mental illness, touting solutions, pretending that they have the “answers” to the situation.  There is not one solution…and the problem of mental illness is such a personal and humbling realization.  Simply throwing money at it will not solve, banning individuals from certain rights with mental illness will not solve it, there is no blanket solution.  The sooner we understand that, the better strides we will be making in understanding and equipping one another to honor people with them.

confession:  my son has 2 mental diagnosis.  I also have propensity for a couple of them.  I have some PTSD from situations in my past, I possess a tendency toward anxiety and dysthymia as well as some Season Affective Disorder, I may also dabble in the ADHD realm.  All of these are interrelated and are linked to issues that go beyond what people think could or should be a blanket response.  Simply throwing medication at any of them will not solve the problem on its own.  It is a day in, day out understanding of who I am, who my son is and responding with grace and honor to who we are.  I am old enough to know and can tell when situations may be getting out of hand, and there are times when my medication has not been what it should have been.  There are times that I tried to go off my meds only to realize that I feel better, and am a better Me with my medication.  Thankfully I have had insurance the whole time, which has afforded me the chance to stay on meds.  But, throwing one medication or a cocktail approach does not warrant the only mode of treatment.

Do you know what it is like to live in what feels like a hole that continues to drop lower and lower, the bottom of which you cannot see or feel, but you know is there?  The hole sometimes closes in, making you feel suffocated and larger than life at the same time.  Sometimes it is so engulfing you think it may swallow you whole and take over your whole existence–you feel small and insignificant–and sometimes like the backpack you are carrying is so heavy you cannot take another step forward.  The weight of its contents so overwhelming it causes you to collapse under it right where you are–stuck.

There are moments of wonder and awe, when things are leveled and you feel good.  There are also moments of deep despair, confusion and frustration.  I have watched my son go from being a happy camper to someone who is so filled with anger that I do not know what to do.  I have witnessed him wake in the morning and go tearing through the house like the Energizer Bunny on  crack, and I am exhausted by it.  Do not get me wrong, he is a wonderful and loving boy…but he also drives me to tears in the wee hours of the night, when I lie awake and worry about his future.  Note that I have anxiety, so the guilt and worry factor is high here.

I worry about his classwork, his organization, his social standing in school.  I worry about how he feels about himself.  You see, he has not had a past of abuse or neglect, but he will claim that he hates himself and his life.  There is no reason for his lack of confidence in himself…he is loved, cherished, and encouraged to be the individual he is.  It is something in the brain that screws with his perceptions and the world around him. There is nothing wrong with him as a person and he is not predestined to a life of crime or a danger to society.  The most damage he will do will be to himself, in his own mind, to his own body, or to the 1 other person whom he trusts more than life itself….mom.

Each day is a lesson in learning about my son, the external stimuli, and his reaction to them.  I have to juggle his BIG personality and intelligence with tolerance to what his mind and body say he needs.  I also have another son who does not exhibit the same personality or mental illnesses…but is just as intelligent and capable.  I have to balance interacting with both of my sons, knowing that they are both individuals and the way I parent one is not the way I can parent the other.  It is a daily exercise in patience, which I lack in major degrees.

It takes a toll on every aspect of family life.  It strains marriages and consumes my thoughts, and I am guilty to paying more attention to my children than to myself and relationships that I have in my life.  It confuses grandparents who don’t see the effects of it everyday…who wonder why the need for meds and their desire to solve the problem motivates them to search for answers that are not readily available.  In their quest to love on their grandkids, they comment and grasp at straws…and those of us who deal with it 24-7 sit and watch and….hurt.  It may claim my marriage, it may not…..it remains to be seen how we weather the impact.  Statistics are not in favor for families who deal with any child with any level of disability.  It takes an immense amount of effort and the pressure is extreme.  I do not say that for a sympathy vote, I say  that as fact.

What is really needed is support and encouragement.  I want to   know as a person who takes medicine for a mental illness, that I am not alone.  I want to know that I have worth and importance as much as anyone else.  My affliction may not require I wear a brace, take my blood sugar, or spend my days in a wheel chair, but it is something which I must pay attention to each day.  I want to know that there are people out there who understand what it means to deal with it on their own, personally.  I want to know that there are people I can talk to who have children who wrestle with this…I want to know that I am not a bad parent with people waiting to sit in judgment of me and my family.  I want to breathe…large and long. I want to feel empowered and the know that the “it takes a village” idea actually works.  I want to use my knowledge to help others and to glean from them when I need it. Above all, my son and I want to feel NOT ALONE.

I think that is all I have at this time…my sons are now fighting over their individual bags of reese’s pieces and requesting I play Gangnam Style for the billionth time.  Excuse me while I go tear my hair out and run screaming from the building….aaaaahhhhh

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

 

 

Another Mother;’s Response

Another Mother;’s Response.

Another Mother;’s Response

I have read the ” I am Adam’s _________Mother” article and I am shaken to the core.  It hits me in a place that I cannot fully describe to many people, it makes me hurt, because on some levels she is describing my oldest son.  Some will read this and comment that my son is not capable of such behavior, he would never talk to anyone in those voices or threaten another human being.  If you believe that, I invite you to journey with us for a day or two, or talk to our closest neighbors, who he plays with on almost a daily basis.

while I have read the account, I relate, but I also caution us to take what is happening with a grain of salt.  To pin this type of madness on a presumed mental illness is dangerous and uneducated–the truth is, it is hearsay.  We don’t know the motive, the life he was living, nor the depth of his personal pain.  We are too quick to jump at what may seem  as easy conclusions because the reality of the situation is too heavy for us to bear.  We should not have to bear such horrendous acts, we should not grieve at the senseless killing of children, but more importantly, we should be crying out for the senseless killing of anyone–not just children.

Where is our outrage when gangs are killing in the streets, or hours from where I live the suicide and addiction rates are some of the highest in the nation, with a poverty rate the lowest in the US?  Where is our outrage when first and second grade students “quit school” and sit more time in the principal’s office instead of the classroom because most of the male figures in their lives are already in prison and they are just waiting their turn?  Where is our outrage when we use words as swords to lash out at each other, demeaning how we live, and love? Where, oh where, is our compassion?

Where is our compassion when we allow people to slander one another in the name of anything because it elevates their own position or opinion?  Where is the understanding that we are each as different and unique as each snow flake that falls each winter.  I am from the midwest people, and them’s a lot of snow flakes from many many winters.  I am as different from you as you are from me and we are as unique as every one of those snowflakes ever made.  That baffles my mind to even imagine!  I celebrate that difference…hell, I rejoice in it!

My oldest son has a double diagnosis, a double mental illness…and I hope and pray through every day with him.  He is not a madman waiting in the wings, he is a little boy with an abundant zest for life, too much intelligence, and a spiritual understanding that astounds me.  He can also lose it, big time.  He has a diagnosis, but more than that, he has a name and a life that I want to be full of hope and promise and light and love.  He has a name and an identity and a sparkling personality which he uses to drive me up the wall quicker than any human being…and I love him for it.  He worries me, causes me to fret and stew, to tear my hair out, to walk around with my heart outside my body—and so does his brother–and I love them for who they are.  His intelligence will not dictate his actions, his moral character and spiritual grounding ( or lack thereof) will spell out his future.  As a parent, I have to pour everything I can into both of them and believe that I, and others that I have trusted to care for them, have instilled the right and proper and strengthening ideals into them.  I have to watch them walk out into the big world everyday and relinquish them into someone else’s control….whether that someone is a school, a job, a loved one, or someone aiming to harm them.  I have to trust that I have done my job as a parent and that means trusting myself to let them go….and to admit that in the end, they are not really mine.  OUCH!!!! That hurts, doesn’t it.  My boys are not really mine.  They are on loan to me and I am the blessed one charged to their care for this time and this place and in this moment.  There will come a time when I am asked to allow them to continue in their journeys, and like every parent, I pray it is never within my lifetime that I am asked to give them up to something bigger than me.  They are gifts for this time and this moment, I struggle to remember that, because I want to believe that they are solely mine.

The reality?  Yes, I have seen my son wig out…I have seen him beg me to get a gun and kill him, I have been the butt of his threats and his violent anger…and I have held him, cradled him, and sang him to rest time and again.  I would do that for anyone.  I would do that for anyone because I know that anyone of us could lose it at any moment.  That is right…Any one of us could lose it at any time!  Think back to stories we hear of babies being shaken and we are shocked when it happens….horrible, yes!  Put yourself in the position of that person who has had that child screaming for hours on end, already tired, worn out, and nothing they do helps alleviate the screaming…..Understandable how a person can be pushed to their limits?????

When we put it in perspective it is not hard to imagine a person pushed to the edge…we are one thread away from it.  THANKFuLLY, there is compassion, common sense, and love that covers us most of the time.  Let’s walk carefully the lines of blame we draw, lest we wrongly paint a whole faction of people who struggle with learning disabilities, mental illness, or any other politically correct label we want to use as violent and deviant.  The fact is, we are all violent and deviant in our own ways…..ever flipped someone off who cut in front of you?  I have.  Ever swore under your breath when you see the cop lights flashing behind you?  I have–out loud.  Ever said something so awful to someone you love in the heat of hurt, anger, betrayal, and injustice?  I have and I have had people do that to me.  Ever wanted to hit someone so hard that they did not know what was coming at them?  I have and hated myself for it later.

Have you ever had someone apologize for a wrong they had done to you?  Has grace come knocking and shown you mercy and forgiveness even when you knew you did nothing to deserve it?  How about love?  Has someone poured their life into yours, knocking down your barriers and your walls to see the ragged soul you carry and loved you in spite of your messy self? I hope so.  I hope you have been loved with a fierceness that takes your breath away and that you can extend that to others.  i hope you know what it means to be pursued in a way that makes you feel wanted and needed and important because you are you and no one else.  I hope you know what it feels like to pursue someone else in that fashion…I hope that you know yourself as a beautiful and necessary human being deserving to be seen, heard, and loved every day of your life and for eternity.

What happened Friday is beyond tragic and has dominated much of my thinking the last couple of days, but it has also served as motivation.  I am beginning to uncover my own areas of outrage at things happening all around me and I see an obligation to stand in the midst of it and be light.  I feel a call to cast light into the darkness, reveal the truth, and walk doggedly into it with wisdom and compassion.  I hope I am smart enough not to go alone….I pray I am not walking alone.

My son has a couple of mental illnesses….but more than anything, he is my son, the first-born to 2 parents who love him, sacrifice for him daily, and would walk through fire to protect him.  He is part of my body, my soul, and my heart walking around out there for the world to see.  He is one of 2 of the best things I have ever done….when you see him, love him for me–protect him and keep him safe when I cannot.  I am counting on you to be the light just as you can count on me.  Can we count on each other?

Musings

Musings.

Musings

It is quiet in my house tonight.  I have spent the last 2 days away from my baby boys (yes they are still my babies even though they are 5, 8–they will always be my babies)  The last time I saw them was about 10:50 yesterday morning as I made sure they had been properly picked up by their grandparents so that I could assist my husband with judging and chaperoning kids on a debate overnighter.  I knew they were safe and were in good care, but before I set forth for Brookings, I had to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  I was able to walk them down the hall, hug them, kiss the top of their heads, and tell them good-bye and that I love them.  They smiled and told me they loved me and happily climbed in my parent’s pick up for the next adventure.  They were safe.

Moments later, I got in a school van, turned on the radio expecting to crank up the tunes and blow into the parking lot to help load a group of kiddos.  MPR and its broadcast from Connecticut stopped me in my tracks as they described the horror unfolding there.  Questions loomed in the air, doubt as to how someone could do such a thing….certainly there must be a mistake.  People just don’t do something like that…we must be hearing things.  No one walks into an elementary school and opens fire—no one.  Someone did.

It is quiet in my house tonight, but I know where my children are and I will speak to them (at least 1 of them will talk on the phone)before they rest tonight.   My mother told me not to worry about whether to pick them up tonight, but to get some rest.  I will rest tonight knowing that they are safe.  It is awful quiet without their chatter, their noise in the hall, their feet pounding the floor, and their instant mood changes which means we have to duke it out in the middle of the livingroom….I am not telling anyone to pick up their coats, put their boots by the register, and to stop pestering the dog.  No one is climbing in my lap, asking me questions while I try to go to the bathroom, or eating off of my plate…it is quiet here tonight.

It is quiet other places tonight, too.  Places where it should not be quiet.  Homes where there are children or parents missing….they should not be quiet.  Homes of aunts and uncles, and grandparents, fellow teachers and aides, administrators, coaches, cooks, librarians, secretaries, brothers, and sisters are quieter tonight than ever.

Sometimes maybe we have been too quiet….I say that gently, wondering if times have come to start talking real truth in our circles.  I wonder if the time has come to crawl underneath what appears to be ailing our society and ask the deeper questions…Why, why do these things keep happening?  Is it for want of more regulation, stricter laws and more awareness?  Will more education do the trick?  Will looking to government controls moderate our behavior?

Maybe it comes down to regulating ourselves.  I said last night that if we could move toward a world where the human race was not hunting one another like animals, maybe we would be a bit better off than we are now.  If we could start to look at one another through different lenses maybe we would begin to see one another as human beings, capable of greatness and wonder, and yes, heart wrenching sadness.  We are all capable of lifting one another to highest of highs with our encouragement, love, kindness, and support.  We also have the ability to destroy one another.  We have the ability to do so much.

I said to my students yesterday, the scary moment was the realization that at any one point, any one of us is capable of something as heinous as yesterday’s shooting.  That is the dark truth no one wants to admit.  We are all capable of losing it and blowing a micro-chip, so to speak.  It may not look the same as it did yesterday, but the propensity exists.  Thankfully, most of us filter and keep ourselves in check, most of the time.

What would it look like to begin allowing tough questions to find answers?  what would it look like to embrace one another as truly brothers and sisters, rather than the individual enemy we want to categorize each other?  What would it look like to take seriously the ideas our parents and teachers instilled in us from birth….to be kind, tell the truth, treat others the way you want to be treated, and look both ways before crossing the street.  We had buddy systems in place to help each other  what happened as we grew older?  Do we not need our buddies to help us anymore?

It is quiet in my house tonight and I miss my babies in a place I cannot describe.  I want to hear their voices, to hold them tight, to cradle them as they fall asleep.  I don’t want to explain the last couple days to them…but I will.  I will use it as a teaching moment to speak of grace and love and compassion and bravery.  I will tell them that I do not understand and there are parts of this story that I struggle to get my head around to understand.  I will tell them that I am trying to find room in my heart for forgiveness, but I find it lacking….I find my role conflicted as to how to love all persons in this situation.  I will be honest in telling them I do not know how to solve the problem or why innocent children paid a price.  I don’t know.

In this moment, no one wins.  Not the victims, the families, schools, friends, and dare I say, the perpetrator.  No one in his family wins tonight either….there is death and loss and mountains of grief and questions which will never be resolved.  That is the hardest realization….there can be no winners—-only a moment to learn from and pray we can move from this a better human race.  We can either learn from this moment, invite the conversations, and seek answers; or we can put our blinders back on, admit that yesterday was horrible, and continue in our same paths as we did.  We can choose to let this impact us to action and motivate us to real and deeper exploration; or we can lull ourselves back into complacency.  The choice is ours, it always has been, always will be.

I choose to take that mantle of community seriously….I seek to understand how I can make an impact that leaves lasting and positive change–even when it’s quiet out there tonight.

To BE…..Healed

To BE…..Healed.

To BE…..Healed

Wow, I can hardly believe the road has taken me this far.  After 38 years and a constant battle up the hill and fighting, it appears I may have reached the summit and I hardly know how to react or what to do.

I sit here on a Tuesday night, I  can see the small string of lights attached to my house, i am seated right next to the Christmas tree and its lit branches, I can hear my oldest son play Star Wars Battlefront and narrate the scenario as my youngest plays on my Nook.  Most electronics make their way to my sons’ hands before I get a chance to get used to them.  It is the cost of having boys it seems.  If it were girls, they would be in my jewelry and make up and asking to borrow my clothes…I will content myself with the onslaught of noise and boisterous play.  My pug is seated on the floor, gazing at me with forlorn eyes, knowing that she would like to lay claim to my lap, but the square typey thing I call a laptop has taken that honor.  She sighs and snorts at me, then fixes her eyes back on the floor.  Maybe, she figures, the more pathetic and uninterested she looks, the more pity I will have on her.  She is right.  An invite to her, a call of her name and I have a 20lb, fawn colored, fur child resting her head on my typey thing.  She sighs a deep moan of contentment and settles herself into the crook between me and the chair.  All is well in her world.

She has not left me alone much in the last couple of weeks.  She has been my constant companion as I make multiple trips to the bathroom, grimacing in pain and logging them for a drug test diary.  The day before Thanksgiving, I was given the news that the last set of polyps I had were stage 2 and that due to the major damage done to my gastrointestinal system many parts had been compromised, including the pancreas.  GREAT.

Back up, did this just occur?  Heavens no.  My adopted family will even tell you, that while I am prone to moments of dramatic fancy, my stomach issues have been present my whole life.  I kid you not.  There has never been a day that I have not had a stomach ache, wondered where the closest bathroom was, or how quickly I would lose what I had eaten. As a young child, there were lists and lists of items that I could not eat…never knowing if I was simply allergic to everything under the sun or my system was that sensitive.  No sugar, milk, citrus, or dark-colored pop could I ingest.  This is not to say that I did not do a fair share of sneaking contraband articles, but I paid for it dearly later that day.

When I received my full adoption file a little over a year ago, many questions were answered.  Many I will not reveal at this time, but from a physical standpoint, many murky moments were made more clear.  I was well over 6 weeks premature, and weighed less than 4 lbs at birth.  Born in a rural and predominantly Native American town, the likelihood of good prenatal care is questionable.  I was born the beginning of Sept and was released from the NICU at the end of Sept– over 20 days in intensive care.  Already narratives talked about my inability to keep formula down and their concern about what would happen when I went home surfaced.  They were right to worry.

Within the first 14 days, social services had been contacted 3 separate times by my biological family to have me removed.  When the social worker made the first visit she wrote about the confusion in the house, the lack of care I was receiving, and the total disregard family members seemed to have for my welfare.  Of great concern were the stomach issues I had already experienced and the care that I required being a premie and of low birth weight, there seemed to be either too much frantic questions or not enough attention being paid to me and the social worker was already concerned.  Too little attention paid to a 4 lb baby?  How could you pay too little attention?

After I was removed the first time, I was placed back in the hospital where it was determined that I was not being fed, had not been taking in calories, and had in fact, lost weight.  I had none to spare.  The long spiral of stomach concerns began and were exacerbated by lack of care, my biological mother never did get it together and overcome her fear of dealing with one with such stomach problems.  It seems that much of the fine-tuning of system growth that happens in the last month in utero did not take place, coupled with poor natal care, and it is a miracle I survived birth….literally.  Yet, I did.  I survived bottles of beer being fed to me so that I would stop crying, and I survived enough to be adopted into a new home before I was a year old.  For that I am thankful.  Given the track record and the narrative I have, I would not have lived much longer in that environment.  I was delivered–again.

The stomach issues have continued to plague my life ever since I can remember.  There is no consistent behavior, nothing sets it off, nothing makes it worse, and yet, everything does.  I can be going along fine, eating a wonderful meal and 20 minutes later, am miserable.  I have been tested for every allergy–none appear.  I have undergone colonoscopies and endoscopes since I was 25, I am and old hat at the game, with more barium enema and radioactive eggs consumed that I can count.  Yesterday I underwent another set of scopes and found out for the first time in years that I had a clean one.  While there is much inflammation and scarring, I had no polyps to speak of and no reason to take tissue samples.  The dr even told me that I had beat the colon cancer for the 5th time, and he has not a clue how I have done it.  Neither do I, other than the host of angels and prayers covering me in the last weeks.

Tomorrow I walk into my Dr’s office and receive a drug (or placebo) which should start to calm down the constant spasm of my intestinal system, taking some of the pressure off the pancreas.  There is great concern about this as it has thrown off all my metabolic.  There could be an end to pain, an end to the constant worry and stress over how I feel and why.  An end may be near for the feeling of punishment that I have felt my body to have undergone my entire life.  You see, I believed wholeheartedly that much of what I was experiencing was a way to punish me for my existence.  If I had been born into a different set of circumstances, I would not feel this way.  Had I been a more docile baby, more adaptable, I would not have annoyed my parents….UH DUH!!!! I did nothing wrong.  Repeat, I did nothing wrong and I am not being punished.

Tomorrow could give me the permission I have sought my whole life–permission to feel and be pain free.  I have no idea what this looks like, I have no idea how to embrace this concept, parts of me have no clue what to do.  This is a gift, a wonderful chance to experience something I do not know.  There is fear.  What do I do when there is no pain?  How do I function if there is no reason to worry and carry a secret of inner turmoil?  Even the alcoholic will tell you they would give their right arm to be done, but the fear of the unknown, no matter how enticing is almost paralyzing.  That lifestyle is all they know, this pain is what I have known for 38 years.  38 years could be over in a manner of days—it has taken this long to get here.

38 years of tears, anger, humiliation, and hurt come together in a chance at something new, and here I sit scared out of my mind.  I am terrified to walk into that DR office, terrified to take the med (or placebo), terrified to think my journey down this road may be over and a new order will replace what i have known for 38 years.  The status quo is comfortable even in its dysfunction, but it is time for a change, a shift in the continuum.  I pray for the courage to move forward, to embrace this, to rejoice.  To LIVE.  I ask from you the permission to speak freely, to express my thoughts, and the space to work through some of what this calls me into exploring.

Let’s do this?

Shalom and healing to you!

cahl.

After a Year

After a Year.

After a Year

I usually think lists are a cop-out means of communication.  A year after I have started this blog, a few items have come to mind.

1)  Kids seem to take the front seat in almost all communications.  Goofier kids stories the better.

2)  I struggle trying to decide if being authentic is really where it’s at, or if I am safer playing more poker with my thoughts –hence the reason I have not written much lately.

3)  Who reads this anyway and what impact am I making…as a writer, of course I want to believe my words are read, but to what end?  Do the things I have to say matter to anyone out there?  Not sure, so I wrestle.

4)  Sometimes I am hit by the bug and simply must write…there is no stopping- no mandate which could eliminate the desire.  Then again, sometimes, it seems the most arduous task to even come up with a cogent thought.

5)  I find I do work things out in my head as I write, and the more I read, the better I write.  Those are good items.

6)  People are weird and fascinating creatures.

7)  I really have no idea what my goal or purpose is on this blog post.

8)  Maybe admitting that is ok.

9)  Eating cheetos while typing never a good option.

10)  Drinking Chai Tea and eating chocolate…always a good option.

11) Really, does anyone read this?

12)  What would they like me to write about?

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