Anxiety about the Unkown

When I was about 10, my parents and I watched “Iceman,” a movie about a neanderthal man found in ice and resuscitated. The question I had for my mom at the end was if it was ever possible for us to return to that state of being – unfamiliar with the technology of the day, and possessing only the most meager of skills. She answered that it was possible in the event of a nuclear war (this was in the mid-80s). Unbeknownst to her, I began to panic about the possibility of nuclear war, and the media coverage of the cold war only fed my frenzy to the point that I was afraid when I heard planes flying overhead, thinking it was the Russians about to drop the bomb.

My dad finally talked me off that ledge (he really would have been a fantastic teacher or counselor) one night, explaining to me that my fears were not founded in logic, and that I was safe.

I went about my life, and I was fine.

But every once in awhile, I get gripped by a current worry, and it turns into an irrational fixation. The internet is a wonderful tool and the most fantastic invention of our time, but during these moments, it is my worst enemy. Rather than trusting my own intuition, experience, and intelligence, I go searching for an answer from strangers who don’t know me or my situation. The answer must be out there, I tell myself.

how I worryAnd so, with my child’s future seemingly in the balance, and a boy who looked at me with panic in his eyes last night, asking “Do I have to quit band?” this is where I am today. In front of the computer, searching for answers, for someone to tell me the right thing to do. Do I choose one of the pre-existing paths for The Boy to follow through high school, possibly denying him access to college or, on the other hand, subjecting him to years of struggle and stress in general ed classes with little support? Do I try to blaze a new trail and fight for a hybrid that is legally his right (with little hope of succeeding)? Do I fight for  him to be in marching band when I’m not sure whether his love for it is more obsession or genuine interest? Do I just pull him out and homeschool (somehow)?

For my sake, I’m putting it out of my mind for a bit, waiting to hear when the meeting with the director of special ed will occur, and asking for the IEP to be postponed at least a week. Coping through distraction and delay. :/

 

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On Being “Enough”

After a fairly rough meltdown, it takes awhile for The Man and I to process, as well. We were discussing the events of the weekend, and then The Man asked if there was anything we could do about The Boy’s insistence to strangers and acquaintances that we have a purple dog at home named Barney.

I shook my head noncommittally, as I was still focused on the situation that had triggered the meltdown this weekend. I wasn’t even thinking of anything else, but apparently The Man had some other things on his mind, as well.

I got quiet, and he asked if he had said something wrong or upset me. I started to cry because I was upset. Not with him, but because I didn’t really know the answer to his question, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I am not enough.

We used to have quite the “village” to help me navigate raising a boy on the spectrum. Now, I feel like I’m it, I’m the authority. I have stopped believing that anyone in the school system knows any more than I do about autism. And there’s a very obvious limit to what I know.

I don’t know if the fantasizing about pets and cars he has “owned” and all of that can be curbed (or should be curbed). I don’t know if it needs addressing or if it will go away with time.  I just don’t know.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with worry, and I guess I’m particularly susceptible to worry after a big meltdown. And I suppose that’s ok. But it’s not a nice feeling, and I hope it passes quickly.

What Stress Does to Me

I’ve mentioned how stressful the fall has been.  Know what happens when I get stressed?

First is my back-shoulders-neck-head. Mostly shoulders-neck-head. Tension-soreness-headaches-migraines happen to my shoulders-neck-head.  It can get bad, where I need to consciously lie on back at night (normally, I’m a side sleeper, curled into a fetal position), take too much tension headache medicine, be in a darkened quiet room, etc.

Second is my stomach.  Polite way of saying I need to run to the bathroom every two seconds.  Again, not fun, but uncontrollable, and a sure sign that something (or someone) has me stressed out.

Third, I begin to shake.  Somewhere between a shiver and a quake. Deep breaths help, but again, it’s uncontrollable.

All the while, I worry it, shake it like a rag doll in my brain.  In other words, I get a bit obsessive about whatever or whoever it is in my brain, and I can’t let go.  Probably one of the reasons, “Don’t worry about it,” sounds just as awful as nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s just not even practical, not even a realistic goal. Shut up.

Why do I know this much about how stress affects me physically? Because I was a teacher for over 17 years.  No, that was not a sarcastic answer. It’s the truth. And I’ve paid attention to my own body.

What helps alleviate some of these? Regular yoga (oops, need to get back on that wagon, too). Me-time. Deep breathing (goes along with the yoga). A massage now and then. Reading (to some extent). Being able to vent to someone about my source of stress (but not too much, because that can get me ramped up again). And a realization that This Too Shall Pass. I forget that a lot. Maybe I should get it tattooed somewhere I’ll see it all the time.

What does stress do to you? What do you do to alleviate it?

Planners Who Need Planners

I succumbed.

A co-worker introduced me to the Erin Condren Life Planner in July.  Suddenly I remembered my undergrad days when a planner was my lifeblood.  I couldn’t function without it, and if someone had ever taken it or I had misplaced it, my world would come to a screeching halt.  As I read reviews and watched the plethora of YouTube posts (it seemed everyone who had ever purchased one had also either done a blog post or a video with a 20-minute “walkthrough”), I suffered from sticker shock, but also a growing need to have one.  How had I gone so long without a planner? I asked myself over and over again.  I had never quite gotten the hang of the digital organization I so wanted to make work: Evernote, SpringPad, even Notes and Reminders on the iPhone just hadn’t quite cut it.  And I thought about the nights where I can’t sleep because my mind is racing with to-dos and ideas, notes and projects, blog posts and emails I need to write.  When those nights pop up, the only, ONLY way to calm my fevered brain is to get up with a pen and a pad of paper and just write everything down.  Good old pen to paper.

I could get my money managed more effectively, and keep track of expenses, I thought.

I could organize my blogging calendar, I thought.

I could have all of The Boy’s school and Autism Society events in one place, I thought.

I could even put events for work in there so I always know what’s going on and when, I thought.

I could include a daily to-do list, I thought.

I could keep our evenings on track between homework and other household chores, I thought.

In the end, I convinced myself to bite the bullet, and give it a shot.  In the whole scheme of things, if it didn’t work, the cost was not that prohibitive.  I ordered my planner and waited about 4 weeks for it to arrive.

When it came, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and again, watched videos and read blog posts on the most effective way to use the planner.  Come to find out, most people’s posts were about how pretty they could make the thing with washi tape and stickers, without any real substance on how to use it.  So I turned to the notes section and made a list of all the things I wanted to keep track of, and began to form my own ideas of just how I would keep track of all of the stuff I mentioned above.

It’s been about two weeks, and it is being used, multiple times a day.  Not only do I plan, but I record expenses (usually first on a sticky note, and if I have time later, with the “proper” label that I have devised), and other things that have happened.

ECLP

But the biggest A-Ha of all is that by having everything recorded, I don’t remind myself six times a day about that one thing I want to remember.  I have a go-to spot for important papers.  I know where stuff is.  And all of these things allow me to 1) relax more, and 2) be more creative.  I have time to think about (and jot down) ideas for blog posts, and even outline my dreams and plans for my own nonprofit which I hope to start someday.

So I guess this is my own obligatory Erin Condren Life Planner blog post.  And I’m not trying to sell you on anything – it’s not for everyone.  But I am glad that I have gone back to paper, because it’s actually allowing my mind to unburden itself of all the small stuff so I have more time to think about the big stuff.

An Awful Weight Lifted

Over the past month, I’ve become quite close, almost best friends, with a feeling I’ve never had to feel before. Because I was always a teacher, and had been for years before The Boy was born, and because (at least where and when I taught) teachers usually had a fairly decent benefits package and fairly decent pay, I didn’t ever carry the heavy weight of worry about providing for my child.

English: Heavy Burden

I know how lucky I was, and I knew it then, but I did work hard for that security, and we weren’t always absolutely free from worry on that front. With the ex doing our finances, there was always worry, but there was always the reassurance of another paycheck on the horizon, even if it was already spent. There was also a time when our district slashed our benefits, and all of a sudden, our all-important speech and occupational therapies were no longer covered. It was a struggle, but we managed. We only got sued by a hospital once, so victory for us, I s’pose.

Today, as I walked out of the Department of Social Services office, where a kind lady had explained to me, “Yes, those mailings you received do mean that your son has full Medicaid coverage,” I took one of the deepest breaths I have taken in months.

No matter what happens, he has a roof over his head, and the medical care he needs.

And now, I don’t have to spend any more emotional energy on that heavy worry, and can concentrate on finding a decent job.

Not for Wussies

Making a major life change is difficult.  Making several at the same time is not for wussies.

I updated you last week on how we’re doing – quite well, actually.  But not everything is sunshine and lollipops.  I’m still looking for work (not quite in panic mode yet), and I’m finding it insanely difficult to get a driver’s license in my new state.  Combine that with the normal emotions involved with major life changes, and I think getting a little blue is par for the course.

Of course, I am a worrier by nature, so I have this natural tendency to focus on the negative, and can sometimes become paralyzed by it.

I have found that the best way to combat this is to do something.  Whether it’s working on organizing a space in our new home, rewriting my resume, or just doing laundry, accomplishing something tends to keep the stress/tears/freak-out away.  It also helps to cut myself a little slack, and remember my Grandma’s great advice: “All you can do is your best.”

For now, I’m managing the worry and stress, and counting my many blessings and the many, many positives that have come with these major life changes.

Just keep swimming!

English: Regal Tang fish at Bristol Zoo, Brist...

No Time To Be Scared

When The Boy was born, he was two weeks early and a tiny little thing, but he was still considered full term.  It was a long labor, but he was deemed a healthy baby boy, who had no problems nursing, and we were sent on our way.  Once home, I started to worry about how much he was spitting up, and also by the color of it.  We had been assigned a pediatrician through the hospital, and we called with our concerns.  We were basically poo-pooed as newbie parents and told not to worry about it.  Except that I had done more than a fair share of babysitting in my time, and this was not right.  When The Boy projectile vomited across the kitchen (our very large kitchen), we went in.  The doctor looked at his bib, with the yellow stain on it, and then all of a sudden she was concerned.  She took the bib, walked out of the room, and then came back and told us if it happened again to go to the emergency room.  Even as a newbie parent, I was less than satisfied with that response.

We decided to get a second opinion.  Same medical system, different doctor.  After explaining what had happened in the past two weeks, he asked, very casually, if we had had an “Upper GI”.  Umm, nope.  The previous doctor told us that would be too invasive.  He replied that it wasn’t invasive, the baby drinks some milk-like stuff, and they take an X-ray to track the liquid through his gastrointestinal tract to see if there is a blockage.  Made sense, didn’t sound invasive, and one was scheduled ASAP.

We brought The Boy in, fed him the stuff, and then we were met in the waiting room by an intern who told us that our son would be having major intestinal surgery in a matter of four hours.

Words cannot describe the shock and fear we felt, but I appreciated the professionality and care from the staff, and kept thanking the stars, the heavens, God, and whoever else that would listen that we had gotten a second opinion.  The Boy had a “malrotation of the intestine” and they told us that if he hadn’t had the surgery within the next 24 hours, he may not have survived.

We went straight to the surgery waiting room and waited.  And it was quite possibly the longest and worst day I have ever been through, although we really didn’t have time to be scared, and were still in shock.

peanutHe did exceptionally well in the surgery, and was admitted to the hospital where one of us stayed with him round the clock for the next week.  He was not allowed to eat or drink anything except sugar water until his system was completely clear, so that they could make sure the surgery was a success.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I look back at the pictures and he looks like a little baby skeleton.  My parents hadn’t even met him yet!

I was still healing from childbirth, and taking shifts being there, lack of sleep, worrying…  It was a trying time.  The surgeon was fantastic, checking up on the little “peanut” as he called him, and pretty soon, we were able to take our baby boy home again for the second time.  It was never lost on me how very lucky we were and are that all was well in the end.  Except, as the surgeon explained about the scar on his belly, “He’ll never be a Chippendale dancer.”  I think we can all live with that.