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Redefining Unconditional: How Our Son Completely Changed Our Lives

I was so honored to have the opportunity to write a very personal piece at Rosevine Cottage Girls a few weeks ago. Cheyenne asked me to join their series on the “unconditional love of a special needs parent.” Oh, yes, please! You see, I believe this article is for any parent. Our children transform us and chip away at selfishness and pride, if we’re willing to let our parenting experiences shape us into better people. Parenting of any kind is saying “yes” to the changes that happen within us when we welcome the possibility of unconditional love into our lives.

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For two years, I would sit at his basketball games and silently sob.

Not because Little Man (our youngest son) wasn’t as good as the other kids were. (He wasn’t at the time.)

Not because I was embarrassed to be the only parent with a kid on that team not keeping up.

Redefining Unconditional_ How Our Son Completely Changed Our LivesI would weep because he was cognitively stuck. Like a computer sluggishly trying to process a hard drive full of information, he would stare. The game went on around him, and he lagged 30 seconds behind. He would run down the court just as the team was turning around to head the other way down the court. Then he would remember, briefly, to “guard his man” before getting lost in the loudness of the gymnasium, the overstimulation of the ball bouncing around him, the fast pace of the kids racing past, and the pure anxiety of being in slow-motion when everyone around you is on pace. He would peel his hangnails and wear a perpetually worried look on his face.

My heart would ache and shatter not because he was different but because it was an indication that once again, he was suspended in that time and place called dysregulation, for whatever the reason, and we would need months to partly climb back out again.

Join me over at Rosevine Cottage Girls to read how Little Man changed our lives for the better.

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Dear Parent of a Child With Special Needs

Dear Parent of a Child with Special Needs:Dear Parent of a Child With Special Needs

I have something to say to you.

I want you to take a deep breath.

I want you to stop blaming yourself (if you do).

I want you to know that on a day that demands much emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual energy to advocate or meet the needs of your child, if that’s all you do, you’re a rock star!

I used to tell myself my child’s disabilities were because I was depressed for a short period of time when he was young.

That I didn’t stimulate his brain enough.

That we didn’t color and do puzzles as much as I did with my other kids.

That I was to blame. I had a lack. I brought this on.

That I should have fed everyone more organic food and cleaned with natural cleaners—and lived on a farm.

That my few piles of disorganized mess were to blame for all executive functioning problems in all family members through several generations.

My if onlys?

If only I read up on all this during the early intervention years. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Why My Child Is Sad—And Why He Isn’t

Why My Child Is SadYou may relate to the food allergy piece of this—or the part about a child with special needs. Maybe you understand the mental health bit. Perhaps you struggle yourself. This is just one tiny scenario in our family’s journey. It may seem trivial, and when looked through the lens of one small moment, perhaps it is, but the message drawn from it is hugely significant and important. We all struggle with assumptions and forcing our good intentions, as well being misunderstood. It’s universal.

Today, one tired, squeaky, sometimes defeated little voice comes through in my experience. I believe his voice rings out, joining many others along similar paths. Little Man and I want you to know:

You are not alone.

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As she bent over to adjust the blood pressure sleeve, she asked him three times:

“Are you looking forward to school starting?”

She had to ask him three times because the first two times he looked down and wouldn’t answer. She had the best of intentions. She wanted to make my son comfortable.

I know the “goal” here is to have a 9 year old make eye contact, smile, act engaged in and enthralled by conversation with an adult, and respond appropriately with all polite words tacked on.

On his best days, he’s charismatic and very articulate.

I’m well out of range of the goal line right now, however. I really am.

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What I Learned at the IEP Roundtable

IEPRoundtableI’ll admit it. Part of me was terrified.

Sitting around the table with everyone who had assessed my child over the past few months, or in some cases—years—was intimidating.

What were they going to say? Were they going to kick him off the boat—not because they don’t want to help him—but because he ranked in need behind other kids when it came time to dividing up the special education pieces of the School Budget Pie?

I had come to find each of these specialists and staff members endearing in different ways. For better or worse, we had been contractually married for several years in the common cause of my son. We were linked, convenanted by legal documents and a mutual desire to help him.

But what if, once we got around that table, the budget dropped between the two sides of the table, dividing us abruptly in half like Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea? What if a former Ally in the Care of My Son now became a Defender of Policy, Keeper of the Budget?

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Why I Don’t Mind That You Know We Go to Family Therapy

Why I Don't Mind That You KnowOne of my personal goals in life is to take the stigma and shame off mental health issues and to open wide the floodgates so that people who struggle (or their family members/friends) will not shy away from walking through doors of help. I want to write about the things we all desperately want to know so we don’t feel alone, but maybe we just aren’t ready to be public about. Maybe we are intensely private in general, or perhaps we just can’t let this part of our lives out into the light yet.

That’s okay. I get it. I’ve been there. I felt deep shame for a while because I didn’t know how to tell people I wasn’t well, find the right words, or even understand how to get them to listen. It’s only been six years for me. The feeling is still fresh. I get it.

Today I want to open up conversation about family therapy because even if you go, you might not write about it. Or maybe you’re considering it but not sure what it’s about. Maybe it seems overwhelming or intimidating. Obviously, I will not divulge personal details here that dishonor anyone in my family or step over any privacy/professional lines. This is about the overall experience.

It’s to broaden the dialogue.

To make people feel less alone.

To reach into dark places and shine some light.

[Disclaimer: I have permission from my family members to share this. We remain committed to sharing the journey together with the goal of bringing hope and help to others walking a similar path. Ours is neither a worst-case nor a best-case scenario. It’s simply our scenario.]

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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in ADHD, Anxiety/OCD/Depression

 

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When We’re in Pain: Keeping the Circle Small

When We're in Pain-Keeping the Circle SmallThe blog right before this one talked about opening ourselves up to more feedback in life. This one is more about the times when we need to keep our circle small.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting, my circle of interaction suddenly shrinks to about five people outside my own immediate family. I think we’re all selective on purpose, during these moments, as a self-protection reflex, an instinct. I’m sure shelves of psychology reference books have been written about this very thing.

Part of the reason behind the shrinking circle is because others are often in their own very rough seasons and can’t really take on something else right now to help.

And that’s okay. We’ve all been there.

Another reason is because it can be difficult to be around people who aren’t tuning into our pain on any level. It can be beneficial to just put those relationships on hold until we regroup and come out of the gray clouds over us. They’re still our friends. They just might not know what to do in this particular situation. That’s okay too.

Sometimes our pain touches in too close to someone else’s pain, and they can’t be part of our inner circle for this reason—at least not in this exact moment. Grace, much grace for them. It’s okay to need some space in these situations. Our experiences can be used to help others, certainly, but if we are still in the throes of deep pain ourselves, it might be wise to not advise others until we’ve come out of it.

Then there are other folks who only really want to be around us for what we offer—not for what we need. That’s okay, too, but they are definitely not entering into the inner circle of “safe”—and really, it’s okay, because that’s not necessarily their goal. They don’t want to. Better we realize that up front. It’s all about expectations, and setting them correctly.

Neither should we let in, during these very sensitive times, those likely to remind us of our own failing (or the failing of one of our children) later.

Yup, not allowed in.

While we may find that our support group of prayer or bringing meals in a moment of sickness or sorrow may be larger than we realized, when we are either struggling with our own particular torment, or a loved one in pain or at risk, we tend to not want to share that with the world. We tend to keep it close, at least until the storm has passed.

Although people are well meaning and offer comfort in their own ways, there are also those tougher moments when someone might walk right up to us, see our tears ever on the edge and rigid tension in our face, and talk on and on about themselves in whatever mundane way or demand our audience over something we can’t really handle at the moment. And while they are not wrong—just maybe a little insensitive—it can make us want to run and hide, find the exit ramp and speed madly down it.

These are the things that overwhelm me personally when I’m in that place. One of my worst triggers is not feeling heard or understood. It also throws me into a panic if I think someone is coming to take from me when I am beyond depleted. I’d so much rather not be approached when I am in that place if the pain is going to blown past as if it is a figment of my imagination. That’s assuming, of course, the person is aware. Obviously, they are not accountable for what they do not know.

And it needs to be accepted.

We recently closed our shutters during a nine-month struggle getting one of the birds in our nest from mental unwellness to a better place of mental wholeness—or something approaching it. I walked around during those nine months tensing up so incredibly afraid of encountering people who wouldn’t “get it” because they hadn’t experienced anything like it yet (thank God!), wouldn’t offer grace, would probe unkindly, or would still want to take something from me in my weakness. My shoulders are still coming out of that tense posture, even now, months after the crisis. And I did run into those kinds of people. Definitely. And I had to draw my boundaries. But I found more grace along the path to soothe my wearied, battered soul—dear, trusted folks who loved me back to safety.

And really, it’s healthy to keep the circle smaller in those moments. Not only is our private stuff, well, private, but I find God calls a few people to help carry us in these times—not the masses. The masses often bring tangible provision, like meals during moments of sickness or for welcoming a new baby, but few will walk through each burden with us in our heaviest times. And that’s okay.

When We're In Pain- Keeping the Circle SmallAnd it may be different people each time. Sometimes it’s a family member or a different friend than the last situation. I love how God uses the people who are going to be able to give us what we need emotionally and offer good counsel at that moment in that particular struggle.

I don’t think we’re all meant to carry around all burdens at once. It would be too weighty. Only Christ could do that on the cross.

I need to also be okay with the idea that I am not always someone else’s answer or “circle person” as they walk through something difficult. I love it when I can be used in this way, but I certainly cannot meet every deep need out there. None of us can. That’s why listening for His guidance and leading is so important. It can overwhelm otherwise.

What do you think? Do you find this to be true?

More of our faith walk through personal struggles can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

*This blog has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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Mental Wellness: Paper Airplanes in Full Flight

When You Are Loving Someone Through a Mental Health StruggleWhen you have a loved one struggle through a mental health issue, you almost stop breathing. You hold your breath each day and ask yourself: “Is he back? Is that him? Will he be staying for a while this time?”

The answer to “How is ____ doing?” has never been: “Aweome, totally back to normal!” or “Oh, all better, thanks!”

Because you don’t trust; you don’t let yourself hope too far into the future; you don’t assume brighter days. You wake up and weep in your Wheaties for the quickest flash of a smile, no matter how fleeting.

I will be dedicating some of my upcoming blogs to laying down the masks and shame associated with mental wellness (and lack of wellness) issues because we’ve personally dipped enough times into this pool to want to come alongside others and say:

“You’re not alone.”

I don’t pretend to understand or relate to every facet of mental health struggles. I am definitely not an expert on the subject. But I am ready to tell our story—which was first my story—and now has touched another one of us. And I won’t stop telling it, in careful honoring of those who struggle, until I feel the hope that carried us through has reached its proper audience.

This story isn’t just ours. It belongs to so many folks. As I finish up these first two books, I would appreciate prayer for this endeavor, for its reach, and for its purpose. I want to shine light in dark places and bring hope to the brokenhearted because that’s what Jesus did for us.

Below is a little glimpse of our better days lately because good moments are to be pinned up on a board and highlighted in bright neon, sang about, and danced to. We find joy and hope in each victory, and we thank God for sustaining us through both still-on-the-runway, engine-maintenance days as well as paper-airplanes-in-full-flight days because there is so much to be learned from both.

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Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Anxiety/OCD/Depression

 

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