Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Fun

I'm very achy and sore today but thankfully I am not sick. Nope, it's the fall out of my most recent outing with my 7 year old.

I realized last week that while I used to always go tobogganing (or sledding I think you call it in the U.S.) with C as a way to get him all the physical activity he needed and to try to preserve some of my sanity - I rarely ever take J.  There are always dishes to do, laundry to be folded and to be honest I am feeling older and out of shape and just downright lazy.

But I made a promise to myself that I would take him considering that following the horror that was 2010 I have this new resolve to seize the day and enjoy moments with the kids. To really be in the moment with them, not just as a casual observer or taking pictures on the sidelines to never one day scrapbook in an attempt to try to prove how happy and involved I was in their childhood. (the pictures here are actually from last year - we were too extreme yesterday for me to risk bringing the camera. :-)

So yesterday C was away with his Dad so J and I headed out to the hill. I made sure I was warm so I wouldn't wimp out and we took two toboggan's with us. We got there and there were about 5 other families already enjoying the snow. I felt a little self conscious at first but it didn't take long before J and I were racing each other down the hill. And I don't mean that I sat on the toboggan and pushed off gently. Nope we started from standing and ran and launched ourselves down the hill.

When I posted something on my Facebook page a friend said she was nominating me for mother of the year. I pointed out that I would hardly fit that bill since on one occasion I actually reached over and caused my son to do a somersault in the air off his board and he landed face first in the snow. The I laughed at him (well I made sure he was okay first and he was laughing before I was). At one point he jumped off his board and onto my back. We were shrieking hysterical messes and while I didn't last long the quality seemed to hit the spot for J.

Of course today my rib cage hurts and my whole body aches but soooooo totally worth it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Makes it All Worth It

Empathy was such a hard thing for C to express. I always knew he felt deeply, he just didn't know how to show it appropriately. It took us a long time to fully understand that when either A or I would get sick (just a headache or a cold, nothing serious) that C would suddenly get out of control BECAUSE he was worried about us. It wasn't because he couldn't stand not having our undivided attention or because he was selfish. Not at all. It was because the idea of us being sick, unavailable to him terrified him. It put his whole system into overdrive and it came from such a visceral place that he had absolutely no control over it.

So when A and I both became ill, at the same time, over the holidays - it wasn't smooth sailing but our boy showed us just how far he had come. This picture my friends is worth a million words and absolutely touched us to our core. Things like this is what makes all the rest of it soooooo worth it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Get in the Pool (over at Hopeful Parents)

Last summer in our darkest of times as a family I began to use an analogy of a swimming pool when trying to describe the difficult parts of our family's journey and I wanted to share it here. I make specific references to adoption because that is the journey I have made but I hope the analogy itself might strike a chord with other parents of kids with complex needs as well.

Back when my husband and I decided to pursue adoption, we never expected it to be easy. Not at all. But there was no real way for us to know how very hard it would be until we had experienced it for ourselves. Throughout the adoption process we were told again and again that to do this, to bring an older child into our home from the foster care system, would be a huge leap of faith.

I now ( a mere 9 years later) envision the adoption process as a huge leap into a swimming pool. In the adoption classes everyone stands around the pool, during the home study process and disclosure you get your feet wet, and if you want to adopt after that well you better be willing to jump into that pool with your child, whether you know how to swim or not.

Head over to Hopeful Parents to continue reading 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pause Button

I am not going to lie

Today was a horrible day


and it's not over yet

double ugh

Funny how things actually start moving along, a lot less bumps during the day and you almost begin to forget what an "off" day can look like then


It smacks you upside the head.

Well on the bright side it isn't subtle. I don't do subtle so well so thanks for that.

I know the main reasons why C is so dysregulated. I understand it but it doesn't make dealing with the miscues any easier when I had no one to tag team with all day. I didn't always handle myself well. I would sometimes forget the things we learned recently in the Circle of Security attachment group I went to for 10 weeks.

I have included this video, which is a very simplified summary of what the program is. There is not a lot available for posting here as the researchers are very tight on what they release so that it is not misused. I attended a version of COS that was for caregivers of children who had experienced disruptions to their attachment but this video at least gives an idea to those who aren't familiar with this particular intervention program

So as I was saying, I would forget for a time that this seemingly happy and hyper boy that was driving me insane was actually miscuing. Which is what our kids with trauma backgrounds do - they miscue. They act like they are happy when they are scared. They act angry and push us away when what they really want (and usually unbeknownst to them) is for us to come closer and to make it better. But then I would remember. I would see the miscues for what they were. Signals that my poor boy was really struggling (and thus at the bottom of the circle in COS terminology). So then I would envision the circle with the outstretched hands. And I would know what he needed was for me to be "bigger, stronger, wiser and kind". And then I could say things like "You are yelling at me and you seem angry. I'm thinking you are actually really scared because Gwen (his AMAZING tutor/worker) has the flu. I've seen you like this when people you love and care about are sick. It makes you have a really hard day".

well lo and behold that stuff actually works. Instead of a yelling and screaming and full on meltdown he actually calmed down.


you could see his back and shoulders just relax as he kind of slumped in his chair. His eyes lost that wide, wild animal look. Instead of looking like he was tightly wound looking for a fight he suddenly looked so scared and tired and defeated. He looked at me with those puppy dog eyes and through tears he said "In all the time I have known her she has NEVER been sick. Maybe she's going to die"

Shit that is some powerful stuff.

Then we were able to talk and we sent a text message to Gwen and she responded and the worst of the absolute drive me up the wall behaviours stopped. He continued to struggle all day but we have managed.

I know it wouldn't have been the same if I tried saying what I said to him even a year ago. Yes the Circle of Security technique absolutely would have helped me years and years ago. It would have given me something to draw from, it would have helped remind me that our kids can heal. It would have focused me on being a detective and figuring out his miscues even faster than we did on our own. It would have helped us parent. But if I had said that even last year he would have screamed in my face that I was wrong and I probably would have given up pursuing that line of thinking.

He has come so far this past year, things are changing, his brain seems to have rewired in so many places - leading the way to reduce the flight or fight response time. It's like a pause button has been installed. It doesn't always work and he might still flee or fight but at least now there is one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Do You Need From Me?

I was speaking with a consultant at CPRI (the place that I love) this afternoon. She is new to our family and came on board following C's BiPolar diagnosis in late 2010. She and I had met briefly in the hallway between other appointments in November but this was my first real conversation with her.

For the most part things have been going really well with C. We had a great Christmas Break for the entire break (which has NEVER happened before) and the newest medication seems to really be making a difference for him. But in the past week or so we have seen a resurgence of what I now recognize as his BiPolar symptoms (extreme irritability, staying awake til all hours completing tasks in his room when most days he never finishes anything he starts without a lot of support, seeking out high carb food, chewing his fingers and so on). Only thing is, I'm the only one that now knows/recognizes these are attributable to his BiPolar. And sometimes I begin to doubt myself - particularly if faced with person after person questioning me on "How do you know that's the BiPolar, what if it's ______". This is all new to me to - not his symptoms but interpreting his symptoms in this manner.

He's holding it together though and not falling apart the short time he is at school. That is good. Nope, correction, that is AMAZING. But the school also wants to increase his attendance and C wants to stay longer. But he's coming home after 80 minutes at school and falling apart. It's obvious to me that until we get his meds stabilized (we have an appointment next week) and he's back on track with proper sleep and eating and so forth - why would we want to set him up like that? Especially when the school and his afternoon "treatment" centre still take a very behavioural mod approach to his mental illness?

So this consultant that is new to our family - I had called her last week to just touch base and she called today and I admit I am feeling pretty raw and emotional today and after a few minutes of my babbling and crying she asked me "What do you need from me?" Not in a challenging way but in this really genuinely supportive way. So I told her, I just need to know I can call her when I feel shaky, when I feel like I am the only person in this whole damn city that doesn't see my kid as a behavioural problem. That I can call her when I need someone to express to about how I feel like I can't do it one more day and then I look at my son and realize no matter how hard my life might feel, his life is that much harder and yet he continues to power through.

In the future I might need her to write letters or attend meetings and to back me up in a more tangible way. For now I just need to know that I am not alone in my understanding of my son and his mental illness.