Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

(Originally written March 2013)

Oh wow, where do I begin?

This blog post will not be creative or clever or humorous.  This blog post is about me and my life lately, which has most definitely not been humor-filled.

So, after about four years of having my depression medicinally controlled, I recently had a relapse.  I've also been having panic attacks and I finally admitted I needed some therapy regarding my ex-husband trying to strangle me, so they diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder.  I have put on a lot of weight (not sure how since I don't eat much and have IBS) and have been living with physical pain for the past few months that has been getting increasingly worse.  My doctor has been trying to get my GERD under control and finally sent me to a specialist.  They did an endoscopy and placed a monitoring chip in my esophagus that recorded 233 reflux events in 2 days.  That impressed the unimpressable specialist, so he sent me to see a surgeon to consult about having a Nissen Fundoplication surgery.  I'd never heard of that before, but it's a surgery in which they wrap part of your stomach around the lower part of your esophagus in order to clamp it closed and prevent acid from coming back up.  If they are able to keep it laproscopic, it is a few days in the hospital and a two week recovery.  But, if they have to do open surgery, the recovery is six weeks.  My reflux has been so bad that I have aspirated numerous times on the acid, which is both extremely painful and thoroughly frightening.  However, the surgeon I consulted with told me that I was too overweight for that surgery and recommended a gastric bypass. Not only do I not want any bariatric surgeries, but my insurance won't cover them.  So, I guess my only other option is to lose weight.  My husband and I have started using Weight Watchers three weeks ago and so far, I have lost 7 pounds, so I pray it continues to help us.  Along with going to see the GI doctor, I have been trying to make the rounds, doing what my doctor has recommended.  Tried to see a OB/GYN about possible tubal ligation syndrome and some painful cysts, but her bedside manner left something to be desired, so putting that on hold temporarily and will seek out a better doc later on.  I'm also going to a psychiatrist and therapy for the aforementioned issues.  They changed my medication and that made things really interesting.  I had an allergic reaction to the new antidepressants and broke out in a rash and my hands swelled and went numb.  Another med I was given caused dizziness.  I felt like I was walking around in a narcotic fog.  I felt unsafe driving or going to work.  Between my extreme joint pain, the dizziness, and the depression, I felt like I could barely move.  The new meds seem like they are helping, but it's slow and I have been weepy in the meanwhile, which I hate.  I get really frustrated with myself that my body betrays me.  Everybody has stress, so why do I bawl and get migraines and have panic attacks when I am stressed?  Lately, I have felt like I am barely able to take care of myself, let alone my family, or have the strength to do my job or perform my household duties.

Arrena, my oldest, is 12 and in the 6th grade.  I have long considered her trustworthy and responsible.  However, the growing pains of starting middle school have been harder than we thought.  Things are different than when I was her age.  We didn't have texting and internet or social media.  So, I needed some time to think and pray and determine what the rules would be for her.  In the meanwhile, the rules were: no boyfriends, no texting/talking to boys on the phone, no boys on the internet.  We got her a cell phone for Christmas, primarily for texting her friends.  The rules of the cell phone were no boys, no deleting conversations, and mom had free reign to look through the phone.  One day, a friend called me to report some suspicious content on Arrena's Facebook page.  One of her friends had posted something about her having a boyfriend.  I confronted her about it.  At first, she tried to lie to me about it, but finally admitted this was her second boyfriend.  Much crying and talking and apologizing, and I made her break up with her boyfriend in front of me and didn't let her go to the Valentine's dance at school.  I thought that would be punishment enough.  A few weeks later, her sister ratted her out that after breaking up with the boy in front of me, she renewed the relationship until she decided he was cheating on her.  Her friends were telling her that her mother would never know.  As punishment, I took her phone for a week.  The following day, I went through her phone and found that she had another boyfriend.  She was talking to her friends about texting a boy, but I couldn't find any text conversation with a boy because she had deleted it.  I found cut-and-pasted conversations in her notepad, talking about "love."  I had known she had a crush on this boy and had asked her a few days before if they were "dating" and she told me no.  It turned out that she had hidden him in her phone under a girl's name.  It's not so much about the "boyfriend" because at this age, it's little more than a title.  However, we know from culture that "things" are happening faster and faster these days.  I want to protect my daughter which is why I have rules.  It's not as much about having a boyfriend as it is about breaking the rules, and lying, and sneaking around, and being deceptive.  So, this time the punishment had to hurt.  I took her phone permanently and grounded her from phone, internet, social media, sleepovers, and extracurricular activities indefinitely.  I think quitting drama club hurt her the most.  She started off defensive and angry.  We talked about how I cannot MAKE her obey, but that she has to decide whether or not she wants to follow Christ and what Jesus wants her to do.  She asked me if she had to break up with him.  I told her that judging by the last time, I couldn't make her do anything, but that she should figure out if she wanted to live in disobedience and what being Christ-like meant.  After a few days, she came to me and told me that she had ended the relationship.  I am not sure how to trust her or how long it will take to repair the broken relationship.  She has been complaining to everyone who will listen about how unfair the indefinite grounding is.  I'm sorry, but since when did these PRIVILEGES become RIGHTS?  Some days I really think about switching to an Amish-like existence.  I think it would be better for all of us.  And apparently her dad is criticizing my punishment behind my back, all the while telling me that he agrees and doesn't like her friends and doesn't believe she should be on the internet at all.  Nothing like some cooperation in parenting and undermining my authority.

Kimberly is 10 and in the 5th grade.  She has been having attitude issues for a couple of years.  I have been concerned about her mental and emotional health for a while.  She doesn't sleep well and was having some crying spells.  She followed her sister's suit this past year in going through puberty and that ramped everything up about 30 notches.  She went from being mama's girl and a touchy-feely kid to being mean, hateful, and not wanting anyone to touch her.  I tell her I love her and she says, "whatever."  I ask her what she's up to and she says, "what do you care?"  I try to hug her and she flinches like I'm diseased.  She used to crawl up in my husband's lap and begged me to marry him and now she treats him like something she stepped in.  And it's not just us.  I've caught her screaming at her brother that he is a freak.  She mouths off to her teacher.  And she tells off fellow-students. And before I even finished writing this blog, I discovered by accident that she'd been looking at pornography on the Internet.  Then I found out that she was contemplating cutting.  She not only told a friend of mine and admitted it to me, but apparently one of her friends reported it to an outside agency that reported it back to the school, so the principal pulled me aside.  She is now on a mild antidepressant.  Then her sister squealed on her, as payback, that she had a boyfriend too.  Talking with her about these things initially improved things.  The other day, she was throwing attitude at my husband and I and when I spoke to her, she started questioning her faith.  She said that she's glad it works for me, but it doesn't work for her.  She said that if God is real, He doesn't care about her because He isn't helping her.  This breaks my heart more than anything.  I know how hard life is and I can't imagine doing it without having God to help me, without having hope.  I don't have many expectations for my children as they grow up or any high and lofty dreams.  The one thing that I want for them is to follow Christ.  I want them to grow in his love and to be Christ-like.  I don't want them to struggle through life and make life-changing mistakes.  And I want to see them in heaven someday.

I've written about Billy's issues before.  He's 8 and is in the 2nd grade.  We have been dealing with his behavior issues for years.  He has been going to a psychiatrist and counseling for 3 or 4 years.  We have been arranging and rearranging medication for him as things work and stop working.  They never wanted to pigeon-hole him, but the working diagnosis is ADHD, ODD, and severe mood dysregulation, although his symptoms could also fit Asperger's, which we have long suspected.  We have had our fair share of problems with him.  Primarily his misbehavior was at home.  He occasionally would act out at school or church, but mostly, he saved his meltdowns for us.  He has jumped out his window, tried to run into a highway, threatened me with scissors, called 911 for the heck of it, screamed obscenities/threats/hate, and threatened to hurt himself, among other things.  When he gets really worked up, we have to hold him down for about 15 minutes and he seems to reset.  He obviously has sensory issues and we know that certain situations will overstimulate him and cause problems.  As this has been going on for so long with little change and he has become more and more violent, the counselor has recommended that we look into in-patient treatment for him.  This is not something that I want to do.  He's my baby and I can't imagine turning him over to strangers.  He is a mama's boy and I am afraid of how he would take it as well.  I will do whatever it takes to help him, but I pray that it doesn't come to that.  This year, he has started really acting out at school.  Numerous times, I get phone calls while I am at work from the school to come and get him.  He has been suspended once so far, if you don't count all the times he has been sent home early.  They have made accommodations for him over and over.  I have tried to get him an IEP or get him into a special ed program, but they don't want to test him yet so close to the end of the school year, and with so little data since he has only recently been acting out at school.  In the meanwhile, I feel like we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  He is running away from the staff, biting/kicking/hitting adults, throwing chairs, knocking over tables, totally out of control.  And it is usually over small things.  The other day he punched one of the support staff in her stomach.  I'm thankful it wasn't the vice-principal, who is pregnant.  They had to evacuate his classroom one day because he was on a rampage.  I don't know where we go from here because it sounds like the school is at the end of their rope.  I am afraid they are going to expel him and then I don't know what we will do.  When I talk to his dad about it, he blames us, the school, the medication, the doctors, etc.  He thinks we need to send Billy to him, that he needs more time with his dad (even though he goes months without seeing them of his own volition).  I sent the kids there for spring break and Billy's first day back, he was out of control at school again.  His dad thinks I should quit my job and homeschool Billy, even though he is not paying child support and when he does pay, it's an insulting amount.  I completed paperwork for evaluations from Children's Mercy and K.U. Med Center to try to pin down a diagnosis because right now, we are not trusting his psychiatrist.  When I try to research his diagnosis, I have trouble finding it and what I do find says the opposite of what he says.  We quit going to the counselor because he quit counseling Billy and switched to family counseling, which obviously isn't doing Billy any good and wasn't helping anyone else since Kimberly refused to talk to him.  I wonder how much longer we have before the violence at school becomes a criminal matter.  How long til they start calling the police when he hits the adults?  This has to be controlled before he is big enough to do damage to people.  How long will the school drag their feet before they acknowledge that he needs special education classes?  After two months of asking, I finally put my IEP request in writing.  I got a letter that they will contact me within 30 days, which is very close to the end of the school year.  I'm trying to fight for my son to have his needs met and be in a safe environment and not a drain on the staff, but then sometimes I feel like I am defending myself to them.  I feel sorry for him, that he is constantly in trouble, but what are we supposed to do???

When it rains, it pours.  Can't have one problem at a time.  And the world doesn't stop because you are struggling.  You have to go to work, you have to go to the store, you have to go to church, you have to keep going, while people all around you have no idea the turmoil that is going on inside of you.  You smile, you say "fine" when people ask how you are,  you put on the perky persona at work since depression doesn't sell.  Yet all the while, you feel like life is crumbling around you.  Why doesn't everyone else notice?  Why can't they feel the pain radiating off of you?  Why doesn't the world stop spinning?  And then you look around and wonder what is behind all the masks you see.  The cashier at the grocery store, the customer at work, the crazy driver that just cut you off--what private pain are they hiding?  And so you keep smiling, not because you feel like it or necessarily because you want to hide your pain, but because you want to give a tiny ray of hope to someone else who might be hurting.

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