I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Decided I needed more space to answer these questions:

https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/17080200/711920471/

How has mental illness affected me personally:  I have bipolar disorder, type 2. I also have an ADHD diagnosis. My son has autism, and my daughter has ADHD. So mental illness is the everyday norm around here. My bipolar isn’t the interesting kind that you see on TV with people going off their meds and then becoming a complete wild child. It’s mostly depression where I sleep and eat a lot mixed in with periods of time where I can get a lot done but don’t always have the best judgement. I’ve never heard voices, or ran around naked, or stolen anything.  My first manic episode, and probably most manic thing I’ve ever done, is marry my first husband on a whim. It was a random weekday, he asked, I said sure, two hours later it was done. Impulsivity is a thing I’ve learned to watch for now, but at 21 I had no idea that anything was up. Oddly, I WAS seeing a counselor at this point, and had been for some time, and she never suggested bipolar disorder either, even though when I look back on this time period it seems pretty obvious.
Having a mental illness makes simple things harder for me. I’m easily overwhelmed by tasks that aren’t broken down into small steps. Like housekeeping. I look around and just see the giant mess and don’t know where to start, so I just don’t start because that’s easier (even though I prefer order). Oddly, I manage my children’s issues pretty well, I’m just exhausted by them fairly often. I find that everyday interactions with people are often rather exhausting. But if I’m even a little bit manic the opposite is true. It’s a weird thing, but on a Myers Briggs test I will score as extroverted if I’m a bit manic, and introverted if I’m a bit depressed.
Having a mental illness, and then having my first child be mentally ill as well made me rather reluctant to have a second child. There are eight and a half years between them, and my daughter was honestly quite a surprise. A very good surprise. But pregnancy and bipolar disorder was challenging, because the medications I was on were not safe for the baby, so we had to find something to use to keep things mostly normal. The drug we used wasn’t ideal, I gained way too much weight, but my mood was good without being too good, so overall it was a success. I did not breastfeed, getting back to my meds and avoiding a postpartum crash was just too important.
I can think of many ways my illness has changed my life from what I thought it would be. I studied to be a teacher and a mental health counselor, but I’m not. I’m a stay home mom whose main job these days is chaeuffeur. Sometimes I am frustated by the fact that I have no career, that I am completely dependant on my husband, but most days it’s ok. I’m a big believer in the idea that things work out the way they’re supposed to.

What did I learn from it that might help others:  In my first graduate class the professor made a comment about people with mental illnesses being drawn to the counseling profession, and that it wasn’t appropriate for them to work in the field because they weren’t mentally fit. I was angry about this comment, but I didn’t say anything, and I hid my illness from everyone in my department for the next three years. And that was wrong of me. That professor was wrong to make a blanket statement about “people with mental illnesses” and I let her intimidate me into hiding and I shouldn’t have. Don’t hide your illness because you’re afraid of what people will think. It’s just an illness like diabetes or lupus or arthritis. You take your medication and you go to your therapist, same as anyone with any illness, and you learn to live with it just like anyone else. When you hide it you’re saying it’s ok for people to stigmatize mental illness and it is not ok at all. We are as important and valuable as anyone else. Never be ashamed of your disorder, and never apologize for it. It’s part of what makes you, you.
I have a much easier time saying those things than I do actually acting on them, especially when it comes to my kids. I do find myself apologizing for their behaviour more than I should. It is what makes them unique, and I should be happy just to have healthy, happy children, not apologizing for their lack of perfection.
The one thing that has helped me the most along the way is learning to share that I have an illness. I’ve found that when I have opened up about my own illness I have found a community of others who have similar issues and who were also looking for someone who understood. None of us are alone in this

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A late giving of Thanks

I have fallen off the NaBloPoMo wagon this weekend. I hate to make excuses, but my wi-fi has not been working well and I have a sick chicken. But it was a good holiday. And I’m thankful for more things than I could possibly name. But I’ll try to highlight a few, in no particular order.

My husband, who provides for all of us, who puts up with more than he should have to, who mostly gives me whatever I want (even when it’s a third dog or illegal chickens), who cleaned the house with the kids over the past few days, and who makes all my stuff work.

My kids, who are my greatest blessings. Yes, they have their struggles, but they’re with me and they’re healthy.

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All the pets. My life wouldn’t be the same without them. I honestly don’t know how anyone lives without a dog in their life.

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My friends, who make me get out of my own head and out of my house once in awhile. I’m especially grateful for the girls who have known me for longer than I care to admit and who never think of me as “Mrs. Sea”.

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(so many pics I could have put here, ultimately went with one where I looked good too)

I’m grateful that all the things I complain about regularly are just first world problems and not real problems. Yes slow wi-fi and never-ending laundry are annoying. And I wish my boots were warmer and my gloves insulated. But I have a sturdy roof over my head, running water and electricity, a full fridge, and more clothes than one person needs. I am fortunate and I’m thankful, even when I’m yelling at the computer or have chilly fingers.

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Never ending laundry

I’m grateful for my health. I do whine about it more often then I should, but ultimately I’m lucky that everything that’s ever gone wrong has been more annoying and uncomfortable than actually dangerous. And the one time there was something dangerous I was too young and dumb to realize it. I’m lucky my body has put up with me so well for so long ūüôā

I’m thankful for every person who stops by to read my little entries, you keep me going and make me want to try harder to be interesting and entertaining.
Tomorrow is Christmas tree decorating at our house, so I’m off to bed. But here’s a funny little story before I go: my husband’s mom told us to get Cards Against Humanity for his 89 year old grandmother. For those of you who have played, I don’t need to explain why this is a bad idea. For those of you who haven’t, a picture:

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Cranky old lady

I’m having trouble finding any focus today.
The day started with a call from my daughter’s teacher. Apparently she attempted to forge my signature on a behavior slip yesterday rather than show it to me. My signature is illegible, but still distinctly mine so her teacher caught her. And then she talked back to him again. I don’t know what’s gotten into her, but I am NOT happy. She’s also been tardy 18 times this year which is ridiculous as we live right by her school. I’m pretty sure the problem with that is the neighbors: they live next door but they don’t walk. I have no idea why, the parking in front of our school is riduculous. It’s actually faster to walk, but the girls next door don’t so she doesn’t want to either. Drives me crazy. I don’t know what’s up with the behavior. I know she doesn’t really like her teacher, and that none of her friends are in her class, but she’s never been rude or disrespectful before. I think I will check in with the pediatrician about her medication, but she shouldn’t really need an increase yet. It’s a bit disturbing. But she got herself grounded all weekend, so maybe that will help change her tune. I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of annoyed with my neighbor about this one too. Audrey was supposed to have a different teacher this year, but my neighbor requested her and requested that Audrey not be in her daughter’s class (my neighbor shouldn’t piss off her friends if she doesn’t want me to know things) so we got moved to our current teacher at the last minute. And really it’s fine, she’s learning and her grades are good, she’s just bored. I’m not excusing her behavior at all, I just wonder if we’d be in this situation with a more dynamic teacher. But my neighbor complains A LOT, so when she asks for something, she usually gets it. Thankfully they aren’t in dance this year, so at least that’s fun to go to again.  I wonder when I became this person who gets caught up in neighborhood drama? It’s certainly not what I intended for myself. Another thing that makes me wonder if that’s why I’ve become so reclusive? Because the whole “mama drama” (as my other neighbor puts it) thing really isn’t me so I just hide in my house.

I did go out last night, with our friend from out of town and his wife. My husband and another couple went too. It was mostly fun. It was definitely nice to see our friend who I haven’t seen in person since 2004 I think. He was just leaving for his graduate program then, now he has his PhD and does something with computers that no one else understands, and of course makes a ton of money. I always said that he would be the one person we knew that would get rich, so that’s fun. We were reminded of our friend that we lost back in 2008 to suicide, and of our friend who moved and has basically cut himself off from the rest of us, which is sad too. But the reminiscing was nice, and the catching up was fun. I sort of wish my one friend had stayed home though. She just doesn’t know when to not talk! or when to let conversations be about someone else. And she’s a mental health professional!!! Our friendship is one of those that worked very well when I was younger and partied a lot, and was fine from a distance too, but now that she lives here again I kind of question how much we really have in common still. But maybe that’s just me too. I am a bit of a cranky old lady.
Tomorrow is my son’s first appointment with his new psychiatrist, who is also my psychiatrist. I’m glad for the change, but I wish the appointment wasn’t in the morning!

More holiday musings

mom and dad

My parents

I honestly don’t have much of an idea today. I think I vented so much yesterday that now my brain is tired. My husband is annoyed with me for insisting that I am not traveling for Christmas, but he will get over it. Especially¬†when we save a bunch of money on not kenneling the dogs. Actually when he heard I wasn’t going, my son said he wanted to stay home with me-something we’ve done before-so it will be interesting to see if he does. It’s not like my husband’s grandmother or mother really want to see him, or at least not for more than a couple of minutes, because they don’t really get him at all. And¬†Alex doesn’t like going to my husband’s grandmother’s house at all. He likes to have everything on: the lights, the TV, his Kindle, the computer, another TV. He LOVES having a screen in front of him at all times.¬†My husband’s grandmother¬†spends the whole time Alex is at her house telling him to turn things off. It drives him crazy! He wants all the TV’s in every room on, and yes, he is watching his Kindle AND the TV because that’s what he does to tune out everyone else.¬†She can’t let it go, she’s on about her electric bill all the time, and is constantly making Alex go turn things off. ¬†My husband even yelled at her about it once. He told her that if she could afford to go to Europe twice in one summer she could afford for the TV’s to be on for a few hours. That didn’t go over well,¬†¬†but even that didn’t stop her from demanding our presence at Christmas again and I’m not having it, and hopefully I can protect Alex from it too. He and I can watch all the¬†TVs and eat pizza while my husband deals with his relatives. That would be ideal for both of us.

I have been thinking about how I’d like to visit my own family. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I don’t know how it got that long, Audrey and¬†I usually go in the summer for about ten days, but it didn’t work out this year. Part of the problem was that my brother-in-law didn’t have his two-week national guard drill–that’s when we usually visit, in order to not drive him crazy. And then my mother wanted to come here, which my sister and I knew wasn’t going to happen, but she really wanted to.¬† My dad is 85, he doesn’t travel anymore. The last time they were here was 2005, and I gave them all the stomach flu (seems to be a recurring theme?). I’ve tried to convince them to come on the airplane, because dad used to like to fly, and there is much less risk of blood clots with that than with the twelve-hour drive.¬†But he hasn’t flown since 9/11 and I think the new security stuff scares him a little and the dogs can’t come on the plane with him, and he absolutely will not kennel his babies. Dad was the other reason I didn’t visit. Every time I brought it up he was worried about the dogs getting upset, or the septic tank, or the well.¬† The idea just seemed to stress him out. ¬†So it just never felt like there was a¬†convenient time to go and stay at my parents’ or my sister’s house. My sister also informed me she had a brown recluse problem in her upstairs bedroom, which is where I sleep, so if she wanted to keep me away that is the way to do it. Oh my do I hate spiders.

So now it’s been a year and a half at least, and my parents have two new dogs, and they’ve redone their living room, and my mom got hearing aids (yay!) and I haven’t seen any of it. And my nieces have grown¬†so much¬†they probably won’t even recognize me. It was my choice to live here and be this far away, and I don’t regret that most of the time, but thinking about the holidays makes it a little hard. Honestly, just acknowledging that my parents are getting older is hard. And I know that I am luckier than I lot of people, having dad be 85 and really doing pretty well.¬† I should just appreciate that, even if it is from a distance. But it would be nice to be home for Christmas.

Family

Me, my sister, my mom, my dad, and the granddaughters. Surprising my dad with a celebration of 70 years of church work (He started playing church services when he was 12)

Bah, Humbug!

Christmas mug

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Not just because of presents, although they were awesome, but because it really was a magical time. When you grow up in the church you get lots of time to anticipate Christmas while practicing for the Christmas Eve program at school, and doing Advent calendars, and finally moving into the New Testament in religion class. When your parents work for your church and a¬†Lutheran college you get even more anticipation with extra services and Christmas concerts and recitals and your dad practicing Christmas hymns on the piano (and Christmas hymns are just Christmas carols so¬†it’s kind of like having your own piano bar accompanist¬†for the holidays). ¬†Lutherans are similar to Catholics in some ways, but not when it comes to singing, we LOVE to sing, and Christmas services are a great time to be a kid in a Lutheran church, so many awesome songs: Joy to the World, Angels we Have Heard on High, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and if you’re lucky, Go! Tell it on the Mountain. And of course there were cookies and homemade candy. My mom baked, my mom’s piano students baked for her, people at church baked for dad, even some of his students gave him baked goods. The wealth of sweets at Christmas was truly amazing. But Christmas Eve was the best. The program was always in the evening at our church, and there were fancy Christmas dresses (My mom made the most amazing Gunne Sax dress by hand one year: I’ll never forget it, it had big leg of mutton sleeves, and a ribbon and lace edged neckline with a row of tiny buttons with loops¬†down the front–making that dress was the first time I heard my mom swear, but it was fantastic.) and hair-dos, and my brother even had to wear a tie. The¬† programs themselves¬† all kind of run together: (except one where I had a big coughing fit up front and had to leave in front of everyone, childhood strep reared its ugly head again) there were carols and Luke chapter 2 and Mary and Joseph. And on our way out one of the church elders would give each kid a white paper bag full of candy and an orange.¬†¬† My brother and sister and I would wait for our dad to be done playing the postlude and packing up his organ shoes¬†while our mom took the other car home;¬†¬†we’d take a drive around to look at Christmas lights on the way home. When we got to our house we’d walk in to our family room where the tree was and it would be lit and the presents would be there,¬† like Santa had actually been there while we were at church. It took us years to figure out that it had been first my grandparents, and then my mom, who put the presents under the tree while we “looked at lights”. And even after we knew, and had moved several times,¬†we would drop my mom off after church, drive around for a while, and come home to presents under the tree. It’s just one of our traditions.

Then I met my husband, and Christmas with his family is a WHOLE other deal. It involves piles and piles of presents and even more alcohol.¬† The first few years all the booze made things pretty funny; then I started to notice the bickering and veiled insults that went with it.¬†¬†As years went on and¬†life brought tragedies the insults became less veiled and the bickering got meaner. There’s still a lot of presents though. There are so many presents that one year my¬† husband’s cousin accidentally threw out the leather gloves I got her with the trash because she didn’t see them (and then complained to my husband’s grandmother that I didn’t get her anything).¬† My husband’s mom wraps stuff and then doesn’t remember what it is or who it’s for. She also wraps things for herself. There’s no real thoughtfulness to the gifts themselves, I don’t think, because my husband has gotten the same sweatshirt two years in a row (two identical¬†sweatshirts, two separate Christmases) as well as a pile of other shirts that he will never wear. I’ve received a lotion from my mother in law that I had given her the previous year, and one that my husband’s grandmother had given her previously. My kids receive all kinds of things that don’t remotely interest them or that are completely not age appropriate. They are always yelled at for not saying “thank you” enough,¬† and so am I, but I think we’re just¬†stunned by some of the craziness of it all.

A few years ago, after driving on glare ice for a large part of the trip to the Twin Cities, we said no more. We were going to spend Christmas in our own home, so our kids could have their own tree and not be dragged all over during their break. And we made that happen for a couple of years. And then we got the “but¬† I might¬† not be here next year” speech from my husband’s grandmother, so we agreed to go in for Christmas Eve 2012, even though I had had stomach surgery three weeks prior and Alex came down with the stomach flu two days before were supposed to leave. We should have stayed home, because the night we checked into the hotel my daughter threw up ALL OVER. And the next day I cooked for everyone anyway, a prime rib that I couldn’t even swallow yet because my stomach was still healing. (Only my husband’s step dad thought this was odd, and he helped me in the kitchen all day.)¬† Right before they started in on presents I realized I did NOT feel good and had my husband take me back to the hotel.¬† That was the start of my near death experience. My¬† surgery (a Nissen Fundoplication) makes it so NOTHING goes up your esophagus: great for getting rid of acid reflux, bad if you get the stomach flu from your kids. So I went from being in a little pain to being absolutely convinced I was going to die. and I was out of anti-nausea drugs. All I wanted was to get some Zofran so I would stop wanting to hurl and not being able to, and stop feeling so much pain. But did we go to the ER or urgent care? NO. My husband took his grandmother tile shopping at Home Depot because¬†that was super urgent. Then he¬†visited his dad who was feeling neglected. By the time I went to the ER when we got home 3 days later they were like “what took you so long?” but all¬†of the sutures held and there was no bleeding. So I was miserable but lucky.

But¬†I’m done.¬† I will not¬†be talked in to any more Christmases that I don’t want to participate in. If it’s just me and the dogs and the chickens I’m cool with that. At least that’s genuine.

My tree

A bit silly

So today was pretty quiet until this evening. Everybody was gone for a chunk of the afternoon, taking my mother-in-law to the airport. She’s in Phoenix until Spring. Since she doesn’t baby-sit like a normal grandmother, likes to tell me how awful my house looks, and¬†demands very specific gifts while being the original re-gifter I’m fine with that. I don’t dislike her exactly, she’s just not a person I would spend time with if she wasn’t my husband’s mother. She’s much either to deal with from a distance, that’s for sure.

My husband and daughter went pheasant hunting after the airport. I’m kind of surprised she wanted to go with since it’s pretty cold out, but I guess she had fun. I don’t know how I feel about her hunting, but so far she doesn’t have a gun, she just walks with him so right now it’s ok. Also, they haven’t actually gotten any birds yet, so I’m not sure she’ll still like it after she sees the dead pheasant.¬† I don’t mind walking around in the country with my husband and the dog either, but I’m not fond of dead birds,¬† so no pheasant hunting for me.

She came home with a headache. She gets them once in a while, and unfortunately migraines run in my husband’s dad’s¬†family, so that concerns me a bit.¬† Hearing loss also runs in his dad’s family, but so far none of the grandkids seem to have ended up with it, which is lucky, but very nice.

So this evening I went out to check on my hens and change their water (I only have one heated dish, and it gets pretty nasty) and I noticed that Thelma was acting weird and not eating. So after checking her out I¬†thought that it might be Egg Yolk Peritonitis (where the egg ends up in their abdomen and gets infected) and decided to try treating it with Flagyl because I have a whole bunch of that and it’s one of the few things that works. Not having a chicken vet is hard, because you’re always kind of guessing, but when I called my vet-who is a FARM vet-his office said they didn’t do chickens because “they’re just chickens, there’s no money in them”, which I guess is true. They’re $1.75 at the feed store, but that doesn’t change how attached to them you get. Anyway, after looking at several chicken sites (thank you Poultry Pedia and BYC) I decided on Flagyl and figured out the dosage; the thing is, Flagyl is the foulest (ha, ha, I’m punny) tasting stuff on the planet and Thelma¬† hates being handled so this was not going to be easy.¬†¬† And it wasn’t, it was like the WWE in my chicken coop.¬†¬† If she improves I get to do it for the next five days, yay.

So then there’s my dog. This is Roxy. She needs a Twelve-Step program. She is normally a very well-trained and well-behaved dog. But she is addicted to sugary foods, particularly Twizzlers and donuts. When she’s in the same room with them she forgets all of her training and turns into a thief. She can surf a counter in complete silence, leaving no evidence of her crime except the empty package. Currently she is in doggy jail (her kennel) for stealing five cinnamon sugar donuts which are absolutely not going to agree with her as she normally eats grain-free food. And guess who has to sleep with stinky butt?!? Don’t be fooled by that face, she is an addict and everyone knows you can’t trust a junkie.

Roxy under cover

As my son would say: f* off

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/29/holding-my-son-with-autism-accountable/

So this has been making the rounds of my Facebook page today. And I am a bit irked by it, but I’m not sure I’m irked by the article or by the people who are posting it. One of the them doesn’t have kids, she just works with developmentally disabled adults, which is totally not the same thing. The other two have autistic kids, but are also besties with my son’s teacher who I really have an issue with.¬† So I kind of question if they’re really thinking the article has something good to say, or if they just want to stick it to parents who they don’t agree with. One of them is the my son’s former middle school teacher, (and I would say my former friend, because I haven’t spent time with her in almost a year) and she tends to think a lot of¬† parents let their kids “get away” with too much stuff.¬† I have real issues with people telling me, or anyone else, how to parent. You don’t live in my house, you don’t live with what I live with every day, so don’t think you know how to do what I do and certainly don’t think you can do it better.

It’s not that I believe my son with autism SHOULDN’T be held accountable for his actions, of course he should. But who gets to define that accountability? I don’t limit my son’s screen time normally, that’s not a battle I’m going to have, but I do set parental controls on what he’s¬†allowed to watch and I only allow certain video games into the house. I don’t much care if he swears randomly, but I don’t like to be called names or told to F* off. If he chooses to get angry and break something of his I figure¬†going without whatever it was he broke is consequence enough so I don’t do anything further.

My issue with his teacher is that she puts him in situations where she knows he is going to fail.¬† She’s a die-hard ABA believer (Applied Behavior Analysis for those who don’t speak autism) and one of the tenets of that is to provoke a behavior over and over again so you can correct it. I think that is complete B.S. and I also don’t think that research backs up ABA (I can prove that if you want, but not right this second), but people who believe in it are like hard-core evangelicals or Tea Party radicals, you can’t convince them of anything else. So she continuously puts my son in situations that make him unhappy. He already doesn’t like gym class, and then she put the one kid he has never gotten along with in the gym class with him, so guess where a lot of his behaviors happen?¬† His first year at the high school he had a job doing laundry, which he liked, but when this teacher came she wanted everyone to do the same job (its part of the vocational element of the program I guess) because its easier for her to supervise so they cleaned the cafeteria after lunch. Alex does NOT like this, so we had behavior issues there last year until I pitched a fit at our IEP meeting, but he’s back there again this year, and still having behavior issues there. I called the job “demeaning” in our meeting last year, and the principal got mad at me, but I didn’t mean that custodial work was demeaning in general, I meant being forced to do it when you don’t want to¬†because that’s all people think you’re capable of is demeaning. I still think that, and if that is the only kind of¬†job skill he’s going to be taught, then I question what we’re doing there anymore.

The article says: ¬†“Now is the time to give him every tool he needs to be calm, happy and productive as he grows into an adult.” and I do agree with that completely, but I don’t know that he is getting the right tools at school and I don’t know that he ever will.¬†I do know that if your kid is practically non-verbal, or has no manners, or if you don’t have kids, then maybe you are not who I want to hear about accountability from.