Friday, April 15, 2016

And then there were two

I've been trying to write this for two weeks. I've written the main part of it in my head dozens of times, but when it came to actually putting down the words I've been unable to. I need to get it out, and I need it to be seen but I haven't been able to get it started. I mean, how do you start a post about having to commit your eldest son to residential behavioral care 1,2000 miles away for an undetermined period of time?

Oh. Like that, I suppose.

It's no secret that D has been struggling this year. It's not something unexpected, either; take the suckiness of 6th grade plus the start of puberty plus a crap-ton of acronyms (ASD, SPD, GAD, ODD, OPP, SOS, ETC) and I had expected this to be a tough year in some aspects. But there were a lot of good things about this year to help soften the blow; being in class with his best friend for the third year in a row, having a great para that he already knew and had worked with, familiar faces in class, and all around the school. He had been seeing the same therapist for about a year at that point, as well as a psychiatrist, therapy was going well-ish... We (the adults in his life) had high hopes for this year--realistic high hopes.

There were times when he met and exceeded any hopes we had for him. He was getting more comfortable in social situations, he was attending class more, his grades were good, and he seemed happy. Unfortunately, those times were outnumbered by the not-so-good times.

He had a somewhat predictable cycle of good to great to shittiest life ever to saddest kid back to shitty life then numb. And by predictable I don't mean the timing, I mean the parts of the cycle. The one thing this kid has always been consistent with is his inconsistencies.   And the cycle really wasn't anything new, the intensity was. He had always been self-injurious but this year he became more outwardly violent. He was hurting and he wanted others to hurt. There were weeks where he would spend all day in the Sensory room at school sleeping just to keep him and others safe.

Life at home wasn't much better. His meltdowns became aggressive and explosive to the point that I had to send A outside or to a neighbor's house to keep him out of the path of mayhem.  We addressed these things in therapy, had medication adjustments, worked with his case worker, we took advantage of crisis care, and respite care but they were just bandages. D was miserable. "Mom, I hate being like this. I hate being so angry and I don't know how to control it." A was miserable. "Mom, why does D have to threaten me? Does he know I love him? You can be scared of someone and love them, right?" I was miserable. The husband was miserable.

Towards the end of February after a particularly spectacular meltdown involving kicking me in the shins and cursing out his case manager, the subject of hospitalization came up. Now, he was hospitalized for a short time last April (three days after his birthday) as an acute situation. That means that he was in the hospital to diffuse the situation, and to ensure everyone was safe.  It was shitty, and it sucked, so when  his case manager Z mentioned it to me, my first thoughts were to last year's situation. And I did not like it.  But this would be a different situation, so the husband and I talked it over and I told him I would talk to D's shrink and get her thoughts on it.

I met with Dr. Awesome the next day and asked what she thought about residential hospitalization.  "I really don't know what else I can do from an outpatient standpoint."  We discussed his medication situation and that at this point the best thing to do would be to take him off all meds, clean out his system, and then start from scratch. "That is something that needs to be done away from home." Discussions were had, tears were cried, and decisions were made; He needs to be hospitalized.

My first goal was to talk to D and let him have some say in it. By that I mean the good ol' parental trick of letting him think it's his idea to go. He and I discussed it before bed and I told him that I knew he wasn't happy, and that we all want to help him, but we've run out of ways to do it here. I mentioned going to a residential center and assured him it would not be the same place he did acute care. He thought about it, and agreed.

Next step: finding a hospital. As I said, this was the end of February and I was hoping to find a 30 day program because his birthday is the middle of April, and we didn't want him to spend his 12th birthday in a hospital. Dr. Awesome put together a 131 page packet to send off to Tricare and to lots of residential hospitals. And then we waited. We got rejection letters from several places, we expanded our search and I started working with a woman whose job is to find beds for people who need help. While we waited we walked on eggshells at home. I knew it would be a temporary tiptoeing routine and to conserve what was left of my sanity, I let him get away with stuff I normally wouldn't. Nothing majorly terrible, but stuff that really wasn't worth a fight.

Once the decision was made, a huge weight seemed to be off of D's shoulders. He was looking forward to going as much as a kid can look forward to going to a behavioral hospital.  Patience was getting thin and the tunnel seemed to be closing up as more days passed without any good news.

And then it came. "D has a bed. The hospital is in Montana. His admission date is 30 March." That call came in the 24th of March.  We're really doing this. I'm sending my baby away. Holy shit, I am the worst person ever.

I knew on a cognitive level that this was the best decision, that D needed help that we just couldn't get him here, that this would end up being a good thing. Emotionally, I was a fucking wreck. When the boys were in school I would Ugly Cry for about 45 minutes straight up to three times a day. No exaggeration. If the tears I shed were pounds then I would be a skinny bitch right now.

This decision hurt. My heart hurt. My entire body hurt. I was going through my days like a zombie. I had to unenroll him from school, I had to find someone to watch A, I had to fill out pounds of paperwork, I had to comfort my son.  A knew something was going on, but we weren't sure when exactly to tell him. I had wanted to wait until closer to leaving but he overheard D and I talking about our flight. "You're going on a plane? Why? Where are you going?" I looked at D and the three of us sat on the couch. I asked him if he wanted me to tell A, or did he. D said, "No. I'll do it," and proceeded to be the most amazing kid in the world.

"Hey buddy, you know how I've been really angry lately, and being mean and trying to hurt you?"
"Yes. I don't like it."
"I know. I don't either. So I am going to a place to learn how to control my anger, and to be a better big brother."

Pay no attention to the sobbing mess of a woman on the end of the couch.  My boys hugged and snuggled and D kept whispering to A, "I love you so much," and I kept crying.


To be continued because I just can't right now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Challenge.....reluctantly accepted

Challenge: Daniel is really struggling with being "different" this year. In class he was allowed to use a laptop to take notes because handwriting is no bueno. He didn't want to because he was the only one doing it. Today he had to take a test that was down in the Autism suite, with notes, and he didn't want to. Why? "I feel bad that my friends don't get this kind of help. I don't think it's fair just because i'm Autistic I get special treatment."

First of all, I love his heart. Next of all, how do I explain this to him so that he can understand and accept the help he gets, but not lead him to think he's entitled to it? By entitled I mean that I don't want to turn him into Joe Douche that says, "I don't have to do this work, I'm Autistic. Check out the IEP." No. He has special needs, and because of that is afforded assistance in various ways, but I will not ever EVER let him think that's he's a victim and that he can act as if he were one. Oh HELLS no. Not on my watch, Cap'n.

Social studies and science have been a struggle because of the notes and his teachers are working with his team (myself, paras and AS teacher) to come up with a fair compromise so he gets the knowledge, and does the work showing the teacher that he is learning. Because him avoiding class and having 2+ hour meltdowns at home at the suggestion of homework isn't doing anybody any good. But this kid....this kid. He thinks he has an unfair advantage when in actuality his help is leveling the playing field. This kid...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And this is a Tuesday evening

This has been an interesting evening with the two juniors. First, the elder asked me if he was gay.

Me: Do you like girls?
D: Yeah.
Me: Do you want to kiss girls?
D: YEAH! (Too much enthusiasm there, GNP, take it down a notch for America.)
Me: Do you want to kiss guys?
D: No.
Me: You're not gay.

Then I had to define some terms that he wanted to confirm the definitions of. The words were the F word, and Douche (bag). So I gave him a brief grammatical dissertation on the word "Fuck" and that it can be used as many parts of speech (his eyes started to glaze over when I was describing how it can be used as a transitive verb AND an intransitive verb). I also told him the meaning of it. Didn't go into as much detail with the Massengil object; I told him that it was used to clean and now it's used to describe someone who is a slimy jerk. He seemed satisfied. I managed to not shake my head off.

After that, the younger was getting ready for his bath and decided to "shuck my clothes off in the hall!" D asked him, "Shucked?" A explained: "Yeah. Shucking my cloths. You shuck corn because you have to take all the stuff off, so I shucked my clothes off."

Um, you're six. You are not supposed to be able to form conclusions like that. And stop getting nekkid in the hallway, weirdo.

This is turning into one of those nights that I wish I drank as much as I say I do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

*sigh* Tuesday

I'm grieving again.

When your child is given a diagnosis other than "super duper regular kid" you grieve. You're thankful for answers or reasons or explanations, but still, you grieve.

You grieve for the child you might have had.
You grieve for the future that child might have had.
You grieve for the fact that living a "regular" life will not happen for you.
You read "Welcome to Holland" about a thousand of times and wish you decided to just stay home.

You grieve.

And then, you get on with it. You accept it and you move on. You read the books, find the doctors, do the therapies, try the medications; whatever needs to happen to move on, you do. But then something will happen to cause you to grieve another loss.

I don't know; I'm probably being over-dramatic here, but I'm sad. Disappointed. Angry. A little hungry. And sad. Still.

We returned D's violin today. He doesn't want to play anymore. And that's all fine and good--he played for a year and has decided he doesn't want to continue. Doesn't want to try anymore.

What the fuck, man?

I know I'm projecting but that's why I'm writing about it, and not talking about it with D because I don't want him to do something because I made him feel bad about giving up the something that I would have LOVED to have had the opportunity to do when I was his age. Not the violin, but I wanted to play Alto Sax or Drums so badly. But I wasn't able to. And this kid has the opportunity and he tosses it.

Am I spoiling him by giving him these opportunities? To do music, scouts, acting, gardening, all sorts of things--is making available opportunities the same as spoiling? I will admit that my kids are kind of spoiled. Typical "I grew up poor so I'm going to give you things I was never given" shtick. I realize it and I work hard to not do it. As much. Certainly not as much as I would like. I get spoiling with items, but can you spoil kids with opportunities?  I'd like to think not, but I very well could be wrong.

It makes me sad that my son gave up something I wish I could have done. I don't know what that makes me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Autism rant: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

I really want to break things right now, but I won't. Instead, I'll angry-type it out and then chain-smoke until I calm down. Though, since it's Africa Hot, I don't think I'll smoke much.

D has group this summer. It's not really a camp, nor is it group therapy. It's a group of kids with varying degrees of special needs/mental health issues that get together four hours a week every Tuesday. Last week was his first week. I got called after he had been there for a little over an hour. "D is saying his stomach hurts really badly." He got on the phone and started crying and I knew in that moment he was fine. Physically. He manifests his anxiety in his stomach. (He also likes to hoard poop in his colon but that's another story.) I told the counselor I would be there to talk to him. I knew what the problem was; I had no intention on bringing him home.

Forty minutes later he had agreed to stay and give it a chance. When he got home at 5:30 he had good things to report. He was nervous, and uncomfortable, but it was fun. Okay, great. I'm really proud of you, kid.

Cut to today. He has group at one. The counselor comes to pick him up and immediately he acts like this outing today is  a total surpirse. Which it is not. I told him before STEM camp this morning, I reminded him when I picked him up from STEM, and when we were finished eating lunch. "I don't wanna go." Why? "I just don't." Fair enough, that's a piss-poor reason. Tell me why you don't want to go. "I'm scared and nervous there. I don't know those kids." Thank you. That's an answer. I then explain to him that in life, he is going to be presented with situations that make him nervous, or a bit scared. And that getting as comfortable as he can in situations like that is a skill that can be learned, which is why we want him to go to group. I finally talked him into going and told him that if by 3:30 you still weren't feeling comfortable, or having fun, I would pick him up. He goes off with Z (the counselor) and I go downstaris to play Candy Crush Soda (which is much more fun than the original Candy Crush, by the way).

Twenty-seven minutes later (travel would have taken about ten minutes; they left the house a little after one, so I figure he had been at group for about 20 minutes or so) I get a phone call from a Private Number. I knew who it was.

"Hey, it's T from group." *sigh* What's up? "Well, Daniel's thrown up all over the bathroom. He has no fever and he was feeling fine and participating and..." I cut him off. "Yup. He did that on purpose. He made himself yak. "Well, I was with him, and I didn't see..." No. You wouldn't have. He's good. He can sit there and will himself to vomit when he's super uncomfortable.  "Well, since he did get sick, he can't stay." I know. I'll be there.

I drove to pick him up in a quiet fury. When we arrive I'm met outside by D and T (counselor).  D starts talking about how the reason he threw up was because he was thinking of Bacon, the fetal pig they dissected today at STEM camp (he's doing Vet Med this week). T apologizes and I dismiss it; I understand why he can't stay, and don't blame them one bit. Barf is a no-go. A Go Directly to Jail card, if you will.

We've been home about twenty minutes and I haven't said one word to him. Because I know when I do open my mouth, it will be ugly. Because I'm pissed. And hurt. And sad. And disappointed. And so fucking furious I want to punch things!!!!!

I get it, his brain is wired differently. He has struggles and he is working to overcome them. I get that. I've been with him every fucking step. But what pisses me off is that this is something he needs to be able to do. He needs to know that when he's in a foreign/uncomfortable situation, he can't just make himself barf to get out of it. That's why we go over coping skills. That why we work on being able to identify Anxiety and deal with it before it gets completely out of control. Yet he refuses to use them. When he's at home and getting angry I'll mention several coping techniques he could try and I'm me with, "It doesn't work," to every one I list. He gives up before even trying and I know that's his perfectionist nature--I've tried three different skills, and they don't work. So nothing will work. If I don't try them then they can't not work.

And yes, I know he's young. His brain isn't completely formed and operational, and the parts that are operational are a leetle-bit wonky. I know that he's not happy with himself. I know that he hates the way he acts and is very remorseful after every meltdown. I also know that we are giving him every opportunity to learn and practice skills to help him live a better life. He's always going to struggle--evveryone does--by being on The Spectrum. He probably won't have an easy life. But we're trying to help him learn things that will allow him to live an EASIER life.

"But it's hard." NO SHIT!!!! I've been in and out of therapy for nearly twenty years (good Christ, I'm old) and it is work, and it's hard work, and it's shitty, uncomfortable, scary, annoying, frustrating work. But it works. It helps. It gives self-confidence in areas that it's needed to work on things that aren't the way you would like. And I just can't understand people who don't want the skills to help them have a better life. I mean, I'm lazy. Straight out, lazy. But when given topics by my therapist to work out, to experience an EMDR session that is so physically exhausting it's the equivilant of doing eight hours of manual labor, I'll do it.

Sorry. I'm not bragging or anything. I'm just so frustrated at my son. At the fact that I can't do this all for him. That I can't get into his head and really understand what's going on in there. That sometimes I want to give up.

Asshole. Couldn't even make it in group for an hour. Fucker.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day

 Being a part of the Military community I have known people who are the reason for Memorial Day.  I know several Gold Star Wives and families.  I know that for them, every day is Memorial Day. And in all honesty, for those affected by their deaths, every day is Memorial Day for us, too.

I am sure that by now you have been inundated with posts about Memorial Day. "What Is Memorial Day?"  "What to do on Memorial Day." " If You Do Anything Remotely Fun On Memorial Day You Are a Horrible Person and Will Be Visited By Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses Every Day For the Rest of Your Life You Horrible, Horrible Person."  I'm not going to write another one of those articles. I will, however, say my piece; do with it what you like.  I'm not the boss of you; not having respect on Memorial Day won't make me judge you any more than I already do.

Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died. It doesn't mean that you have to sit shiva for people you don't know, or even for people you have known.

You don't have to feel bad for enjoying the day. It is the "unofficial" start of summer. It is a long weekend for most people, and in most places the weather is finally nice enough to enjoy the day. Go shop. Grill out. Get drunk. Live.

All you really could do is remember. Just remember. Remember that this world is not just about you and your circle of friends, family, co-workers, innocent by-standers, or the guy you see every morning walking his dog.

Remember why this country was started in the first place. Remember how it started. (Spoiler alert: it was not an amicable divorce.) This country didn't just appear; there were a lot of people who worked hard and gave up a lot to make it so.

Remember that you have rights and freedoms. You have the right to save 60% off a new mattress, or to finally get that 384-inch plasma/radioactive spider-fueled TV you've been lusting for. You have the right to read this, or any other thing and roll your eyes. You have the right to do that, and more, but you are not simply entitled to them.

You have those rights because people greater than us sacrificed for it. They fought for it. They died for it. Remember that.

Remember that we are STILL at war. We are still training, deploying, fighting; that probably won't end soon.  Our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, roomate's uncle's half-nephew by marriage are still dying.

Don't not enjoy the day. (Double-negative used on purpose here. It's my voice. Put that red pen down.) I know people who would be annoyed if you didn't take enjoyment from the day. So go shop, barbecue, swim, party, sleep, or whatever.

Appreciate that you can.
Remember those who have made it possible.
Then appreciate it a little bit more.

Monday, May 11, 2015

This really isn't about a toaster.

Note: I fully acknowledge that what I am about to post is possibly the most ridiculously frivolous problem one can have. That, in the entirety that is my life, if this is the biggest issue, then today is a great day. That said...



My toaster oven is about to shit the bed. We rarely use it for ovening...mostly for toasting. I'm thinking of going to a 4-slice pop-up toaster but I'm nervous about doing so. I can't imagine a situation that would necessitate constant ovening in my toaster and have often thought that a pop-up would be easier...especially for Alexander.

Big picture: this is not even in it. I mean, just today my best friend in high school and her husband adopted a baby from China; another friend is dealing with ER trips and public racially-insensitive declarations from her 11-year-old; I'm dealing with a new toaster. #FirstWorldProblems, indeed. 

In reality, though, I think I'm over-stressing about this decision because it's one that I can make--it won't be made for me by a trained medical professional. The results of buying whichever toaster will still be toasted bread and waffles. No medication changes, or violent outbursts, or trips to the hospital. At the end of the day, waffles will be made. There will be no tip-toeing around the possibility of waffles or no waffles; waffles will be served. And toasted.  

This should be an easy decision to make--the easiest one I've had to make in a while. A decision that has no bad choices. But I'm standing here, staring at a toaster oven and a 4-slice pop-up toaster with the worry that life as I know it will end if I choose the wrong one. And I'm sure I'm projecting my fear and unease about all that has happened the past few weeks on to a seemingly innocuous 
situation because I probably haven't fully absorbed or dealt with the past few weeks and it's easier to admit being scared to buy the right toaster than it is to say I'm scared for my son and his future. 

Whelp. There it is. I think I'll get the pop-up.