Harder Than I Ever Thought it Would Be

We worked long and hard to become parents. Years of infertility filled with tests,
needles, examinations, surgeries and the loss of dignity. We moved on to
adoption and were again met with questions and the need to prove ourselves. But
finally the day came and we welcomed a wonderful 3 year old boy to our family.
We were so proud and excited to start our new life together.

I was new to my job so Adam took a few weeks of parental leave while I finished up
my probationary period. From all accounts, they had a great time each day just
hanging out and playing and setting up a pool for Corbin.  I was so excited to be a stay at home mom,which is what I had always seen myself as doing. From day one it was hard.
Harder than I ever imagined it would be. He didn’t listen to me and I was on
the go with him the entire day. I had been so excited to take him places like
swimming and the Early Years Centres and they all ended up with him screaming
and crying and my face flushed red in embarrassment. I knew I was nearing the
end of my rope when I found myself crying over socks in the department store. I
knew it wasn’t about the fact that I didn’t know what size socks my boy took.
It was much more. I tried to talk to friends but they chalked it up to being a
new mom and told me I was doing great. Great. I might have been doing great but I didn’t feel great.2002-08-11-021

Any spare moment I had I reduced to tears. I made sure my son didn’t see me and I didn’t
open up to Adam. I felt like if I admitted that I felt sad and depressed
during a time that was supposed to be joyous it would make me seem ungrateful
and an unfit mom. What I didn’t know is that adoptive parents can have post-adoption
depression. The internet wasn’t like it is today back in 2002 and I had no idea
that opening up to my doctor might have led to a conversation about possibly
needing depression medication, maybe just for a little while. Instead I
soldiered on, oblivious to the help I might have had.

Eventually I went to therapy and that helped. I was able to explore how I had been
parented and what kind of child I had been and reconcile that with the
knowledge that my son not only wasn’t me but that he wasn’t some dream child I
had created along the way in my mind. Instead he was a very troubled little boy
who would eventually have multiple diagnoses. By then I was much more prepared
to parent him and the depression surrounding his adoption had lifted. I felt relieved to know that I wasn’t feeling depressed about him but rather it was situational. I write
this hoping that other adoptive parents might see this and realize that there
is no shame in admitting you are struggling and that post-adoption depression
is a very real thing.

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Out There

I have been submitting writing to other sights and then losing track when they are posted. So here are the last two (that I am aware of, lol)

on Rage Against the Minivan

and The Mighty

So enjoy and please leave a comment if you are so inclined.

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Happy Canada Day Everyone

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Daring to Dream

Corbin is struggling in some of his classes this semester – he doesn’t get along with one of his teachers and it has always been an issue. If Corbin doesn’t get along with them he tends to fall apart in their class. It’s just the way it is.  He is in danger of failing two classes and he has been doing so well up until now that I find it hard to accept that he might just fail those classes. I mean – we are so close to graduating next year!

I see what I did there

“WE are so close to graduating”. It’s true – this isn’t just about him anymore. I am wrapped up in his grades and whether he walks across the stage at graduation next year and picks up a real diploma as opposed to a certificate of attendance. He’s worked hard. WE his parents have worked hard. He deserves to graduate. WE deserve for him to graduate. I already have plans for a graduation party and announcements pointedly sent to people in the past who didn’t believe in him.  I haven’t decided whether to write “Stick It!” or “Suck It!” on the announcements. I guess I have some unresolved anger going on.

But all kidding aside. He has worked hard and I really am invested in seeing him graduate. He has an Intellectual Disability and Tourette’s and OCD and ADHD and Autism and and and AND he WILL graduate!! If it’s the last thing I do!

I maybe need to back off a little – it’s hard to determine what is productive encouragement and what is making your kid live your own dreams. I get that. I keep saying I just want him to be happy. Is it wrong to think that graduating would give him a sense of accomplishment and make him happy?  I’m not ready to give up yet. I have to believe that he is capable of this!

 

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A Full Year and Counting

The first part of this story can be read here

After reading the first part over again I have to say this: the truth is I am not now who I used to be prior to my hospitalization. My experiences and the medication have made me a new person. Whether I like it or not. I spent the better part of a year trying to get back to where I was. People would comment how quiet I was and were wondering if I was ok. And I was. I was doing ok but I also felt lost. I had a horrible memory and almost zero motivation to do anything. My favourite thing was to have a nap – I would come home on my lunch and curl up on the couch and be dead to the world for a full 45 minutes.

My head felt foggy and I wasn’t sure of myself. The medication gave me a hand tremor and I felt so unsteady I stopped taking the stairs at work for fear of falling. My doctor assured me that most of these symptoms would soon stop. For the most part they did. I can make it through the day without a nap, the tremor is almost non-existent and the fog has mostly cleared. I’m still more tired now than I was before my hospitalization – it’s just an unfortunate side effect of the many medications I am on.

What I notice now is that the thoughts that were once whirling around in my head frenetically have slowed and the remarkable thing is I tend to have one thought at a time. One thought at a time. I didn’t even know such a thing was possible. I think this has been the biggest change I have seen (aside from the lifting of the depression). This change though is hard to get used to. I have spent 40 years with my thoughts whirling and twirling around in my head. I often thought of it as a train going around and around that I couldn’t quite catch. The filter between my thoughts and my mouth was often missing. People knew I was a straight shooter – often reacting to things spontaneously while others gave it careful consideration. I also wasn’t the best listener as my thoughts would go off racing in a zillion different directions when someone would tell me something. I’d already be thinking of my response before they were finished talking. That is not good listening.

So now I am a better listener but I don’t feel like me. That often makes me pause and wonder if the side effects are worth it. One of my main complaints before was that I couldn’t handle the racing thoughts – they drove me crazy – literally. Now I find the quiet in my brain eerie and disconcerting. Adam constantly wants to know what I am thinking or why I am being so quiet – he thinks there is something wrong. It is that I have no thoughts. I never knew it was possible to have nothing to say. Now I know.

All of this to say that I am not the person I used to be. Just like all experiences we have in our lives – I have come out the other side a changed person. Some for the best and some not so much. Overall I think life is going well now – I just need to get used to the quiet in my brain.

 

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Advice to Myself as a Young Mom of a Child with Disabilities

  1. This a marathon, not a race. Slow down and know that all those phone calls and letters can wait until tomorrow. He won’t know that you refrained, just barely, from calling his school Principal an idiot or that you successfully had his suspension rescinded.
  2. Get more sleep. It’s tempting to stay up after he is asleep to have some “me time” but in order to work with others you need to be rational and well rested.
  3. Put down the mop and just spend time with him. Teach him how to bake and let him eat the batter. Play board games over and over. Go to the park. He will remember the wind on his face as you pushed him higher and higher on the swings. If he remembers anything it will be these moments of closeness. It’s these small moments that will carry you through the hard times.2006-06-17-200412
  4. Get a Babysitter. He is a handful but you have a couple of people willing to be with him. Lean on them. Hire them once a week to give you time alone with your husband. You will grow apart as your son’s needs overwhelm you and it gets worse every year. Don’t let it happen.
  5. Let your husband help you. Tell him you need him. Open up about how overwhelmed you are feeling. Talk to him about taking over some of the responsibilities with your son. Don’t just use him as the enforcer at school meetings – have him do some of the follow up to the letters you write and the phone calls you make. He is kind and capable. Let him help.
  6. Try not to Ugly Cry in front of service providers. Tearing up is ok, deep heart wrenching sobs are not. Maintain your composure but be genuine. People will respond favorably when you show them what it feels like to be in your shoes. Certain people will thank you for giving them a glimpse of what your life with this spirited boy is like.
  7. Write about everything – what has happened, who said what, how you feel. Writing is your outlet and even when it is very raw you are thankful for having written it. Don’t stop or let being overwhelmed stop you. Writing is the key to processing for you and thus is necessary in order to move on.
  8. Take care of yourself. Take time away from the family, get a pedicure, get your haircut. Be kind to yourself. Do basic things for yourself like going to the dentist and your family doctor.
  9. When depression creeps in be sure to talk to your family doctor early on. Maybe if you treat the depression early on you can avoid some hospital stays. Go to therapy and stay in therapy, even when things get tough stick it out.
  10. Love yourself! You are a dedicated advocate for your children but don’t just define yourself by your advocacy skills. You are so much more than that . . . You are a mother, a wife, a friend, a writer and so on. You are amazing.
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A Full Year

In November 2014 I decided, without my doctor’s knowledge, to go off my medications. The Lithium I was on was stunting my emotions to the extreme, I was always tired and a hand tremor was driving me crazy. In January 2015 I informed him of what I had done and he reluctantly agreed that I seemed to be doing fine and we would just keep an eye on things. By April of 2015 I was actively battling my depression and anxiety and I was losing the fight. I was overwhelmed by even the smallest of things and I felt like I was drowning. I kept questioning myself – why was I feeling this way? Why couldn’t I just snap out of it? Then came the suicidal thoughts and at first I was able to think “Your family needs you” and “tomorrow will be better, just wait”.  But tomorrow wasn’t better and I began to think that my family would be better off without me. After all, if my everyday life was filled with anxiety and profound sadness – what good was I to my family?  At that point my thoughts just seemed to unravel – I was no longer making sense even to myself. My thoughts were so jumbled I didn’t even have the capacity to ask my family or friends for help.

Then I had my regularly scheduled appointment with my Psychiatrist and my husband, sensing something was off, came with me. It wasn’t far into the appointment when I admitted I wasn’t doing well. It took his point blank question of “are you thinking of harming yourself?” for me to break down and admit (almost matter of fact) that yes I had those thoughts and I had a plan. Right away he wanted me to go to the hospital. Adam took me there and after a short wait I was placed in a quiet room in the emergency room. My thoughts swirled around in my brain – mostly telling me I was a horrible person to once again be in this situation and that I would be better off dead.

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Adam left me alone for a few minutes to use the washroom and make some calls about our kids. I took advantage of his absence and promptly chewed on a corner of the bedsheet until there was a tear and I could rip off a long piece. I tied it to the bed rail. Before I could tie it around my neck Adam came back and I tried to hide it. Sensing I was acting weirder than usual Adam searched my blankets and found the bedsheet noose I had made for myself. He, despite my pleas, told the nurse who then proceeded to tell me that they had trusted me and given me my own room and now I would have to be placed across from the nurse’s desk for observation. It felt like I was being chastised and I became indignant and ranted and raved about the lack of understanding from those around me. The doctor quickly “formed” me – which means he signed a paper saying I was a danger to myself and allowing them to hold me against my will for 72 hours.

The wait in the emergency room was lengthy – Adam says it might have been a couple of days while we waited for a bed. I don’t remember much from that time – just snippets as I drifted in and out of sleep. When I was awake all I could think was what a failure I was and how I wanted to die. That was the depression lying to me – actively making me doubt myself and seeking to end all pain through suicide. Depression lies and is very convincing at it.

I eventually got a room on the psychiatric ward and was safe and Adam could return to our life to try to make it as regular as possible for the kids. For me it was a 2 month fight to get back to “normal”. Depression had really done a number on me that time and it was hard to fight through. Every day the on call doctor would ask me if I was feeling better yet – insinuating that I should be. And I would answer “no” and he would look at me blankly like he hadn’t expected that response. Later I would find out that another medication had been added to my regime. At the end of my 2 month stay I was on about 7 medications – anxiety medications, ones for depression and a mood stabilizer. I lost track of what I was taking and what for.

Life on “the unit” in the first hospital was very tense. There were so many very ill people all in one place. The nurses were for the most part miserable and refused to do anything other than the bare minimum their job required. Even getting something as simple as a cup of water could be difficult. For two weeks I had to sleep without my CPAP machine that I use at night to keep me breathing – because they were afraid I would hurt myself with the cord. Without sleep I was struggling just to get through each day. Not to mention being awoken during the night by my roommate who was experiencing psychosis and was scared one minute that people were out to get her and the next minute she was asking me if I was her “real sister” that had been hidden from her. The food was alright, though mistakes were common and one day I received a large plate heaped with broccoli. That was all I had to eat, a plate of broccoli. Days were long and filled with copious amounts of time to brood and wallow in feelings of despair coupled with nonsensical phone calls to friends to try to ease the mind numbing boredom. The only good thing about the unit was that visitors were welcome pretty much any time of day and visits from friends and coworkers helped to ease some of the discomfort.

With a few very ill men on our ward tensions were high as people battled each other – for control of the TV, control of the phones and on and on. I put in a request to move to the long term care facility where my doctor was the head of Psychiatry. It took a month but finally one day I was roused out of my sleep and ordered to follow some random man down the hall. He turned out to be a medical doctor and he was giving me a once over before I was transferred to the Toldo building of Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital. In a foggy haze I hurriedly packed my belongings and made a quick call to my husband to inform him of my move. I know he wasn’t very happy with the turn of events. I had just the weekend before had a successful day pass to go home and he was hopeful I would be released soon. But I knew I wasn’t ready to go home – I wasn’t well enough yet.

Toldo building was completely different. The nursing staff was pleasant and helpful and seemed eager to see us do well. I was promptly put on a specific calorie diet because of my diabetes and I grudgingly had to admit I was physically feeling better with the diet I was on. My meds began to finally kick in. They had a ton of programming and after a week or so I threw myself into the activities including going to the gym and horticulture (I was very proud of my tomato plant).  The rest of the time we watched episode after episode of Criminal Minds, Dog the Bounty Hunter and The First 48. Wonderful episodes to watch while trying to recover from severe depression – but I didn’t control the remote.

Meanwhile Adam pushed for there to be a return home plan and my doctor and I put together a progressive plan that would see me go home about a month after I arrived at Toldo. A few visits home that were successful followed by an entire weekend and I was good to go home. It was scary. I felt bruised and uncertain. But I also felt hopeful – which was the most important and I nurtured that. I remained off work for another month and even when I returned I wasn’t completely myself. In fact it wasn’t until recently, 1 year later, that I finally feel like a new version of myself.  A full year to gain back all the skills and abilities that I used to take for granted.

to be continued . . .

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Mental Health Awareness

Where I live it is Mental Health Awareness week for both youth and adults. Check out some of these sites for more information:

Canadian Mental Health Association

Children’s Mental Health Ontario

Parents for Children’s Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness (American)

Also my son and I contributed to podcasts at CPRI in London – go to this link to hear our podcasts and some other amazing ones. Mine is the under “families” and Corbin is under “kids”

CPRI

I have asked all of my work colleagues to wear Green tomorrow (Wednesday) to raise awareness for Mental Health – we’d love to have you join us. I’m not on twitter or snapchat or any of that but you could always email me a picture of you – tina1973@gmail.com

Tina

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