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Monday, November 13, 2017

Best Mom Ever

I may or may not have threatened to “murder” my son this week. Being the literal person with autism that he is, he may or may not have taken me seriously. 

It was one of those days that we’ve been having a lot of lately. A day where he is laying around like a slug, on a school morning and on into the afternoon --like he doesn’t have a care in the world. The world is zooming by on a Wednesday afternoon and he is completely unfazed. 

I have to leave to run an errand. So, I tell him to get ready.  I would drop him off on the college campus, while I'm headed in that direction. 

The errand is to meet his brother at the barbershop. I happen to owe him twenty-five dollars (another story).  His brother, (age 22) also has autism and takes medication. However, he has already gotten up and made himself breakfast; packed his lunch; volunteered at the Food Bank; gone to school, (transition class) to workout at the gym and then walked to the barbershop. All of this, while Blue has barely eaten breakfast.  Not that I’m comparing my children because you’re not supposed to do that. Everyone has their own journey. Blah. Blah. Blah! 

Thirty minutes later, I’m ready to leave. I go to his room to find him laying back in bed!  Not dressed. Not ready to go! It’s 1 o’clock in the mother fracken afternoon!

“What are you doing?”
“Well, I don’t have to be there until 3. So I just thought I’d take Uber.” 
“I’m offering you a free ride NOW! Get your ass up!” 

Generally speaking, I am a non-violent person. The only real fight I’ve ever had in my life, was with my brother when we were kids. I  may or may not have gone after him with a knife and ended up cutting myself in the process. I would not admit to this in a court of law. Besides, it was self-defense. I think.  Well, he did something to really piss me off.  And there had been years of torturous, relentless teasing that went on. To include, once giving me Ex-Lax, telling me it was candy.  At the very least, if I had been arrested, it would have been justifiable homicide.
Gentle Mom
I am the gentlest mother you could ever meet …mostly. I don’t remember ever spanking my kids.  I was mostly one a 
time-out, natural consequences kind-of-mom. Although, I may or may not have grabbed one by the collar as a teenager. However, I did not strangle him. As I said. I'm a non-violent, kumbaya, namaste kind-of-mom.  

I am not a yeller and screamer like my mother was. But boy! On this day, I wanted to scream!
Instead, I fumed on the inside and did not lose my shit, until I dropped him off. I sent this text to his father. 
Only, I didn't send it to his father. I accidentally sent it to my son! 
That’s it. It is decided. I am the best Mom EVER! 

Yep! Mother of the Year!
He had a few other choice words for me...which I will not share here.  He was NOT Happy with me. Of course, I was NOT Happy with him either. 

I was extremely frustrated in the moment. I considered myself yelling via text at his father (lucky hubby right?) so I didn't yell at my son, which in the moment, probably would have made matters worse.

I am actually very concerned about his intense sleeping habits. The next course of action is a sleep study, which he actually requested from his doctor. Here we are again, trying to piece the puzzle together. 

Is it the medication? Is it depression, anxiety, avoidance behavior? Is it a sleep disorder? Does he have a life-threatening illness? Or is he just being incredibly lazy? This has never been his character.  Something ain't right ...a mother knows. You know what they say, "behavior is communication." 

It doesn't seem normal for an 18-year-old to need more sleep than I do at age 29 (wink, wink) and I need a lot of sleep so that I remain Zen, Namaste and all of that crap. 

So …off to doctor this week to get blood work, evaluate meds, do the sleep study and figure out what’s wrong with him, so that I don’t actually have to murder him. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Keep it Moving

I spent four days this week listening to Kendal talking about his future...
  • moving out of the group home
  • moving into an apartment and better yet (or worse yet, depending on how you look at it) 
  • moving back home. 
He’s trying to convince me how good of a deal that would be for all of us.  It would save “us” so much money. Which is the translation for —I wouldn’t have to spend my money on my needs. I would have more freedom to spend it on my wants. 

-It’s going to be too expensive for me to live on my own.
-Why can't I just move back home?  
-Why are you holding a grudge based on how I used to act when I lived here?” 
Um …because you traumatized me —for years.  
-I’m not like that anymore. Besides, I’m busier now. I wouldn’t be here all the time. I work two jobs. 
-Maybe I could go back to school and save money because I live here.” 
-What if I don’t have enough money?
-If I drive, what if I get a ticket or get into a car accident? 
-What if the apartment isn’t close enough to everything?
-What if I can show you how much I’ve changed over the next 6 months? Then would you let me move back home? 

He has been his usual relentless self with these questions and statements on repeat, on a loop over the past several weeks.  When he sees my face, he takes it up a notch.  He must have my attention. 
“Mom. Mom. Mom,” all day long! 
“I need to talk to you. This is important.” I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but it’s important. 
“It’s about my life.”

After all of this extra time with him this week (because he’s taking a break from the gym) I found myself wondering how I ever accomplished anything when he lived here?

I also wondered how in the hell I got myself into having him at my house 4 days in a row?

The time he spent at home brought back not so fond memories of when he lived here. Between the incessant talking, the meltdowns and fights with his brother, arguments with his dad and my mother, I don’t know how I ever put a coherent thought together much less, a sentence or a blog post or an essay that made any sense. 

Thinking back, I realize that I was writing for my life. It was all I had. It was survival. I didn’t have a therapist. I was too busy taking him and his brother to various therapies to think about myself.  Writing was and still is, a part of my therapeutic process.  I don’t think I could live without it. 

As for Kendal, with any change in life comes with anxiety, fear and “what-ifs.” The same thing happened before he moved out the first time and with each job change or transition. 

“I’ve changed mom. I’m not the same person I was when I lived here,” he says. 

And he’s absolutely right.  He has grown immensely. He’s working two jobs (part-time). He cooks, shops and takes care of his daily living without prompts (mostly). He makes social plans with friends and is involved with a group at his church. He even plans ahead when a movie is coming out and buys his tickets ahead of time.

I attribute this growth to not having me around as a savior and a distraction. I feel like I am his kryptonite.  (I wrote about that in Top 10 Reasons You Cant Live Here for 5 Years a few years ago before he moved.)

I am the person who pushes him. I am also the person he can always count on. At the same time, it’s like both boys think I am an extension of their brains and they want me to continue doing my part of their thinking.  That impedes progress. 

I am so beyond ready for him to move out of the group home. In my opinion, the agency sucks. They don’t meet all of their responsibilities and I believe their staff is counterproductive for him in many ways. For instance, he told me a couple of days ago that one of the staff said, “You’re no different from the rest of these guys. Most of them have tried living on their own, and they all end up back here.” 

I don’t know if I believe that is exactly what was said. I mean what adult in a position of helping people would say something so incredibly shitty, right? Yeah, these bitches probably would.

Things get lost in translation sometimes with Kendal. Whatever the case may be, somehow, he is getting the message that living there for an extended period of time is inevitable. That is not the message I want him receiving.

Kendal can come across with an air that he’s better than other people. Of course, he’s not. But, I have raised him to want more, and to speak up for himself.  Sometimes people in authority don’t like that. Especially, if it means that he is making their jobs harder because he doesn’t just accept whatever bullshit they try to sell him. He gets that from his mama and his grandfather (Hollywood). *Smiles with pride. 

The ability to speak up and self-advocate is something that the group home staff don’t seem to be used to clients doing. It seems that they are used to serving folks who go along with the program and let them completely control their lives and their money. My son is not that person.

I want continual progress and eventual independence as much as possible for him. He wants that for himself. Of course, as far as he's concerned, it would be a lot better if he could have the best of all worlds. Independence, while we spend most of our money to make it happen. Not going to happen.  

His intensive sales pitch almost had me sold on his moving back home temporarily.  
And then I woke up! Hell No! You are not moving back here. 

I told him if worse came to worse, and we couldn’t find a better option, he could move back here to the house …and I would get my own apartment! Sorry dude. If I can help it, we will NOT live together again. I’m trying to get rid of your brother! Why would I let you come back? My goal is zero people that I once housed in my uterus, living in my house. 

I tried to sell him with the pitch, “Girls would rather date a guy who has his own place as opposed to one who lives with his parents.” Eventually, you want to get married. You need to be used to being independent first. 

Who am I kidding? I’m not ready for all of the drama that comes with dating. But then again, how will he ever find a wonderful woman to eventually take him off my hands completely? 

I would rather see forward movement instead of backward. So, I will trust that he will continue to grow and thrive with more independence.  

Besides, I have dreams and goals of my own. Having him live here again would push my dreams further away just like his being here more this week, has pushed my “to do list” behind schedule (more than usual).  

By the end of a full day with him talking and repeating, I remember the reason that I am so in love with “not talking” these days.  I crave solitude and quiet.

I remember why my phone stays on silent —the ringing causes me trauma.

The good news? Spending so much time with my son this week motivated me to get my ass up and out of the house to yoga more than I usually do.

Our time together also made me more determined than ever to move him to the next stage of independence, which will be his own apartment —not back home.

Having him move is scary for me too. However, I realize that success comes from taking the steps that scare us the most.  My friend Oprah taught me that. Yep! Me and Oprah are totally pals. 

This is Us



Friday, October 27, 2017

Kinda, Sorta, Adult

It’s early on a fall morning. My eyes pop open before I want them to.  My mind is already off and running with thoughts.  Blue has an appointment scheduled with his Academic Coach. He’s supposed to get up early to go catch the train. I don’t hear any movement outside my door. My bed is exceptionally cozy since it's finally feeling like fall in late October. I did not sleep well, so I'm still pretty tired, but nevertheless, awake.

I decide not to get up to wake him, rush him out the door, and get caught up in the transportation issue that has been created by his oversleeping. Instead, I will let him deal with the natural, life consequences of being late or missing his appointment.

I find myself consistently pulling back from saving him from himself. It takes mental energy to watch him tread water, yet not moving forward. I want to throw him a life raft and pull him along, but that's really not my job anymore. He's an adult. Kinda. Sorta.

He had this massive paper due last week. It wasn’t supposed to be massive. It was only supposed to be five pages. But he thinks profoundly --in great detail.  It was too hard for him to decide which elements could be left out. The paper ended up being double the size required and also being turned in late. Luckily for him, his professor could see his enthusiasm over the subject and was willing to work with him by giving him a time extension.

For weeks, he kept coming to me with his frustrations and anxiety. I would steadily refer him back to use his resources at the college. "I'm not in college. This is not a paper by consensus. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and in my opinion lead to more anxiety and confusion," I told him.

I consistently referred to my confidence in him. "You have done this before. You are more  than capable of completing this paper."

I was exhausted from watching him procrastinate and fret. I think I was happier than him or his professor when he finally turned it in.

It's not just school. It's the everyday life skills that he's having a hard time with. On his 18th birthday, I gave him the gift of washing every last stitch of his clothing. I also told him, it would be the very last time, I would ever do so. He hasn’t had an empty laundry hamper since then.

One day last week, he came down the stairs wearing swimming trunks, a swim shirt, and flip-flops.  Again, it’s October. He was on his way to go out and get some lunch and work on his paper at a coffee house.

“Are you going swimming?” I asked.
“No. I’m just tired of wearing jeans and I don’t have any other clean shorts.”

No shit. Sherlock! I say that I lot lately.

I was just on my way out of town for the weekend.  It killed me, but I didn’t look back. “See you on Sunday,” I said. “Hope you have some clean clothes by then.”

It’s depressing watching him leave the house looking homeless half of the time. I am definitely no longer in charge.

The other day, I met him out at Starbucks.  He clearly had not combed his hair before he left home that morning.  Yet, he insists on wearing an “afro” these days. Why do you want long hair if you don’t want to comb it? Clearly, I don’t get it. I try so hard not to say anything every day, but it’s not easy for me to ignore. I am that mom ..the one who has a really hard time minding her own business.

I know that being rebellious about the way you dress and wear your hair is a typical thing that teens do. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to watch.

I always made sure my boys were clean cut and neat when they left my house to go out into the world. Being black boys in a mostly white world, I never wanted them to be perceived as someone to be afraid or leery of. They already stand out because of their stature, and by simply having brown skin. They don't play the game of smiling and being nice when that's not what they're feeling inside. That combination can get you killed in this America.

But like I said, clearly I am no longer in charge of his appearance or his hygiene. All I can do is give him information. Ultimately, it’s up to him if he uses it. I don’t think when he leaves the house, he thinks about what day it is,  much less, what would happen if he were stopped by cops and has red eyes, and untamed hair, dark skin, and fleeting eye-contact.

This is my third time at this rodeo with an 18-year-old.  Most boys go through the phase of having no idea who they are, and what they want out of life. They know the next steps should involve more education, but transitioning from one phase to another seems impossible.

My 29-year-old would rather stay up all night playing video games than to be a responsible college student when he was 18.  He did finally earn his degree many moons later and thankfully his extended education was paid for by the Army National Guard.  The difference between him and Blue is, I could kick him to the curb …out of the nest when he decided to take his time growing up, knowing that eventually, he would fly.  He may have flailed around a bit, but he would figure things out.

My current 18-year old would rather eat and sleep his way through this transition into college. Because of his autism and anxiety, it won’t be as easy to push him out, sink or swim, fly or fall.  I may have to get a little more creative about how and when I push or exactly where I push him to. He will still need support. It may just be better if it doesn't come from me.

One thing I know for sure from these three experiences, with three different 18-year-old, brown boys --they may need a push but eventually, they will figure things out. And I think, all the faster if I’m not around to watch their every move. I have to take away the safety net or at least make it slightly less visible.

This is his personality ...at least with his mama.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Raising Adults


Excuse me while I think out loud. 
“This job is stupid.” Driving grown-ass people around all day. For free.  
It feels like a waste of brain power. 
It's a huge time suck and takes a lot of energy.  
I want to use my brain for more than this.  

I’ve had plenty of jobs throughout my 52 years of life and I’ve always had the privilege of walking away when I was ready to move on.  Turns out you can’t quit motherhood when you’re burnt out.  I’ve been a mom 24 years and I’m over it already.  I love my kids more than life, but I’m ready to love them from more of a distance. 

It’s hard to have a front-row seat to this movie that is transitioning to adulthood.  Autism makes it seem like it’s moving in extra, painfully, slow motion. 

The boys are technically adults now (18 and 22).  Because of their autism and anxiety, neither of them drive yet.
It seems like all I do is drive them, give them money, and supervise the spending of money. I’m just so over it.  Especially, since they don’t really want to listen to anything I say. 

When kids turn into teenagers, it's like your voice is on mute. You're constantly talking, but nobody hears a word you're saying.  Yet, they still need your help.

Kendal is 22 and would very much like for us to stay out of his financial business. 
“Don’t be monitoring my account and looking at my spending!” 
That is until he runs out of money and needs help. Then it’s...
 “You’re going to let me suffer?” 

Um …dude, I don’t have anything to do with your suffering. You make choices, YOU live with the consequences. You can’t keep screwing off your money and then ask us to fix it. 

The 18-year-old, Blue, is really just getting a taste of money management and budgeting. He's kind of a big spender for a dude without a job. He loves to eat out. He doesn't want to cook, although he knows how, because he doesn't want to clean up after himself. Right now it feels like all of those independent living skills I spent years teaching him are blowing in the wind. 

His executive planning is crap.  I must admit, mine isn’t much better. I am definitely not the most organized, methodical person in the world. But it's my job as his mother, to help him. Whose bright idea was it for me to help other adults manage their lives? I'm clearly unqualified. 

Blue seems to have no concept of cause and effect. I try to help him keep his life in order because his lack of planning ends up affecting my life —costing ME time and money.  

For example, he doesn't get up on time.  
Which means he doesn't have time for a proper breakfast. 
He ends up eating on the run (this costs money).
He doesn't take meds because he didn't eat and rushed out the door. 
He ends up not taking morning meds at all that day. 
He ends up having trouble sleeping that night and subsequently getting up the following morning. 
He has an early appointment the next morning and needs a ride, which includes a stop for breakfast (more money) so that he can make it to the train station on time.
This means I get up extra early to take him to the station (5 miles away) because I don't want him to miss the appointment with the Academic Coach. 

Of course, he doesn't want to listen to me when I try to get him to plan because I’m nagging him. 
Believe me, dude, the last thing I want to do is nag you. Please run your own life, so I don't have to help! Only you don’t seem to have any idea of how to do that. 

Sometimes I want to say f*#%-it-all! 
I want to run and hide…
One --so I don’t have to watch this bad movie anymore…
and two --so they will stop asking me to do stuff. 

I think that Blue would function better if he didn't have me around as his safety net. 

I don’t remember anybody teaching me budgeting, and planning or even driving for that matter. I learned out of necessity for survival. I learned by doing. I wanted to spend. I got a job. I wanted to go to college, I applied and figured out how to pay for it. Of course, I didn't have autism, but I'm pretty sure I had undiagnosed A.D.D. 

Maybe I coddled them more than I should have. I’ve always been here for them. The stay at home mom —their advocate, their beck and call girl.  Now I’m pissed because I’m ready to quit and they seem to be in no hurry to grow up and be independent. 

Wait a minute. That's not exactly true. Blue has been taught to advocate for himself. He has always set goals and gone after them, most of the time without prompt. He has actually always been VERY independent.  Maybe that's why this is hitting me so hard.

The past two years there has been a kind of regression with those independent skills. Part of that reason has been social dynamics, heavy on the male/female relationship learning curve. The other part I think, is that growing up just plain scares him.

Kendal has come a very long way in the past few years. Having him move out, to the group home, which I still hate, did kick him into grown-ass-man gear.  He's working two jobs and now looking at apartments. 

They both have their driver's permits, but neither is in any hurry to drive. Anxiety is the main culprit.  For Kendal, most of his anxiety is related to the actual cost of driving. He doesn’t want to pay for insurance, gas and, “What if I get a ticket?” 

They both use Uber until they run out of money or the ride is too far and too expensive to pay for. Then I become their personal driver for appointments and errands. Knowing how much Uber charges, I realize I could be rich from all the rides I give alone! 

There is essentially no public transportation in our small city (a suburb of Austin) besides Uber and Lyft, which is better than before when there was nothing. Some of these damn roads don’t even have sidewalks. 

There is a train and bus station about 5 miles from here that will get you down into the city of Austin. But you have to be able to get to the station on your own, via bike, a ride or whatever. 

If you’re on a limited budget, or you have a disability and you don’t drive in this little city, you're screwed. I don't even know why they call it a city. What kind of city has NO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?  

Of course, I also drive Ms. Daisy (my mother) to her appointments, grocery shopping and wherever else she needs to go.  I do all of her errands, picking up meds, doctors appointments, going to the post office and such. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know. I'm whining. I'm venting. That's what I do here sometimes...well, a lot of the time. But, hey these are my confessions. 

Driving is but a metaphor for my life. 

I could easily change it to cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, the care and feeding of adults who don't appreciate it. All of the ordinary things that I do on any given day, none of which, stir my soul or leave me with a sense of fulfillment. 

I am an age where I am longing for something more.
My authentic-self is screaming to come out from behind these layers of other people's crap.
I have some ideas about what I want.  
But I can’t help but wonder, is there enough time in between drop-offs and pick-ups to fulfill my dreams? 
It seems like there is always an interruption, a need to be met, that does not belong to me.
Is fear holding me back? 
Am I holding my self back? 

I am learning to say no more. 
I am learning that self-care is like water, essential to life. 
I am determined to feed my soul with more education, whether it be reading or going to listen to a group of women speaking about empowerment. I did this last week. I felt like such a grown-up woman. 

Together Live Tour
Glennon Doyle
Luvvie Ajayi
Abby Wambach and More! 
In my head I know, just do it. Take one step and then another —one at a time. I don't have to have a map. I just need to get moving.  

It's just kind of hard to figure out my life when I'm so busy helping my young adults figure out theirs.
Aren't their people you can hire for this?
There should be.
I have this feeling that it will never be my turn if I don't take it.
No one is going to hand it over willingly.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Being Social

I’ve changed. The experience of motherhood, marriage and moving away from Los Angeles, where I grew up has made me a completely.different.person.  There are subtle traces of the girl I once was, but they aren’t clearly visible. 

I was the most social person you could ever meet. My phone was always ringing with an invitation for lunch, dinner or some other social gathering. 

I had friends from the neighborhood I grew up in, friends from school, friends through mutual friends and various places that I worked. I’m talking good, quality, friends who stuck with me through the different stages of life. I am blessed to say, most of them are still with me even if it’s from a distance.  When we see each other, it’s like no time has passed.  I treasure my friends, each of them adds a unique experience to my life. 

I still enjoy being social, jut not that often. I am selective with my time and who I choose to spend it with. Let’s face it, I don’t have a hell of a lot of social time available. My local friends are sparse, few and far between with the closest of them all —miles away in Houston.

More than anyone’s company these days, I enjoy my own. I love the quiet, my own thoughts, doing exactly what I want to do, not compromising with anyone. That’s because my every day is one big compromise after another. 

I spend my days having conversations that I don’t necessarily want to have. I try to minimize the number of conversations with Kendal. Our goal is one phone call a day, but sometimes he comes over …and it’s on. Talk, talk, talk rinse and repeat. And I mean repeat the same mindless words over and over again. He worries out loud and likes my undivided attention while doing so. 

Blue, my 18-year-old son, likes to process all social situations with me. It doesn't matter what else I'm doing. He wants my opinion. That is until my opinion doesn’t really agree with his or until things blow up in his life.  Then I can be properly blamed for everything that goes wrong.  He says to me everything he doesn’t get to say to his friends because then they wouldn’t like him anymore. The problem with that, is sometimes I end up not liking him. I love him always, but like…not so much when he's exploding on me.  

No matter how matter-of-factly I think, this is not about me. He’s upset and can’t manage his anger. This is a part of autism. Humanly, it’s directed towards me and it feels like it’s about me.  I end up absorbing a lot of negative energy and it’s draining. 

I love my husband and sometimes, I enjoy talking to him, especially when we are alone. He is the best part of my life. I love him unconditionally. But in the day to day, I don’t always want to talk. I’m spent.  And he can be like the kids with over-communication.

Maybe being a writer, makes me prone to want to communicate that way. In order to write, you have to spend a lot of quiet time with your thoughts. I love when I can work through my feelings and say what I want to say without interruption and quite frankly, without feedback and opinions. 

And then there is my mother —her feelings are hurt when I don’t feel like talking to her.  I love her and enjoy her company (mostly) but you know how mothers can be with all of that lovely unsolicited advice. Now that her mind seems to be doing well, she’s always adding to my “to-do list.” *Insert eye-roll here.  Honestly, most of the time it's not about her that I don’t feel like talking. It’s about my head being full of thoughts, worries and unsolved problems. Sometimes, I need silence just to process everything that’s going on in my life. 

The adults in my house say that I’m not very nice. I’m grumpy -always in a mood. 


You're damn right I'm grumpy! I have every right to be. Try being all things to four other people, two of whom have exceptionally high needs,  all the time, and see how grumpy YOU are! 

Last night was a family dinner to celebrate Kendal’s 22nd birthday.  I honestly did not want to go. It was my husband's idea and at first, I thought they were going to have a guy's night out.  Then he invited my mom so I felt obligated to do the right thing as a mother and go. *another eye-roll here.  To be honest, I didn't particularly want to celebrate his birthday since he barely acknowledges mine or my mother's birthday. He knows better than that. I always asked for a hand-written note or a handmade card when he was growing up. It's not about the gift, but the acknowledgment.  I'm a grown-up so off we went to a family birthday dinner.

Sadly, our quirky autism family does better with one on one situations than we do as a whole unit.  It's like, each ingredient of the casserole is great by itself or perhaps combined with one other ingredient, but when you put them all together in a dish, it's a disaster.

I didn’t want to listen to them all talk —at once. It’s not fun —everyone competing for the mic,  the debating, the constant correction, the talking to Kendal with condescension (my mom and my husband). I try really hard not to talk to him that way. When I talk to him, I try my best to treat him with dignity.  The key word is —try. I’m not always successful because he can wear through my last nerve. My few little patience are shot.  However, I think I am the best listener in his life, so he talks to me the most.

It may not be right, but I carried him in my uterus and I spend more time and energy with him than anyone else on earth. I've earned the right to lose my patience with him.  I just hate when other people do it. It may not be politically correct for me to feel this way about his father and my own mother.  It may not be fair, but it is what it is. I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like. 

Anyways, I say all of that to say, that the girl who was once the most social person you could meet —who was the one out of my family of five siblings, who was the glue that held them all together, who made sure that we got together frequently for family dinners and parties now,  can hardly stomach having dinner with my own immediate family. How is this my reality? 

Yes. I've changed. I'm not as social as I once was.

It's a difficult thing to admit.  A simple dinner with my immediate family makes me want to pull my own hair out. But hey, these are my confessions... 

I did survive dinner although I was thoroughly irritated by my husband by the end of the night. I won't get into the details of that. Insert eye-roll here. 

I celebrate that my son has made it through 22 years of life without being physically harmed by his mother.

I still love my husband and I still have my sense of humor. 
Happy Birthday my complicated boy. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mental Health for Mom

I’m 52 years-old. Some days I wake up thinking, I would sell my house and all my earthly possessions just to pay someone to come and take over this mom gig for me. I'm sure someone else could do a better job. 

Well ...I wouldn't sell my bed. I love my bed. 
Or my down pillows. 
I would also keep my mala bead collection, and my laptop, and maybe my phone and well...I don't know, but mostly everything else, I would sell.

My last child just graduated from high school. My two older boys are both out of the house, slowly moving along with their lives. My 21-year-old has autism and mood dysregulation disorder. He will probably always be high maintenance and need help with managing his life, but at least he is working. He keeps a job, and right now he has two. Maybe, just maybe I will get lucky and some day he will find a lovely woman to marry and finish raising him. I am done. Mostly. Only he hasn't finished growing up. 

I must have been delusional to believe that this stage of my life would be a time of celebration and freedom. Maybe not total freedom, but at least more freedom. I finished raising children. I can finally have a life, right? I can build my web site, write my book, launch my t-shirt design business, travel with my husband, travel alone, and maybe never come back. 

Maybe I could finally feel a sense of purpose beyond the care, feeding, and therapy of other ungrateful humans. 

Only none of that freedom has happened. And it doesn’t feel like it’s close to happening.  

The 18-year-old also has autism, mood dysregulation and a ton of anxiety. He is not launching as expected. He is brilliant and has all of the potential in the world. However, right now he is a nervous, anxiety-ridden, self-sabotaging, bundle of hot mess. We’ve been putting him through all kinds of thousands of dollars in therapy. Our goal is to get him to the point of being able to somewhat regulate his emotions. 

Between transition from high school into adulthood, starting community college, friends moving away for college, and other social situations, it turns out that this is not a straight shot. It doesn't matter how high his S.A.T. score is if he can't manage the responsibility of college life. 

One would think this would be an exciting time for a young adult, but for someone who doesn’t deal well with change, it is an onslaught of, gigantic, scary looking, changes and challenges. 

When his anxiety is high, it sometimes turns in to anger and it's not cute when you're a big old 18-year-old boy. I happen to be the safe person that gets to see and feel the brunt of that frustration. 

So last week, I found myself in the office of a Psychiatrist. Talk about depressing. I’ve been in Psychiatrist's offices many times before --for other people. 

I never liked Psychiatrists or the process of dealing with psychotropic medication for mental health. When your back is against the wall, and someone you care for about is not mentally healthy, you do what the hell you have to do, just like you would if they had any other illness. 

I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication for a while. It was prescribed by my Primary Care doctor. She had the nerve to move away in January to take care of her own parents. Damn her for having a life. I loved that woman. 

She left me with a script that by May, was no longer doing the job of keeping my anxiety in check.

Years, months, days and countless minutes of hyper-vigilance, living in this stressful, chaotic, war zone I call home, has conditioned my body to be on alert for something bad to happen even when there isn't anything major going on. It's the infamous, waiting for the next shoe to drop. PTSD from hundreds, if not thousands of meltdowns, fights and phone calls with a bomb on the other end of it. I get butterflies in my stomach and my heart starts racing every time the phone rings or any time voices get raised above a certain level in this house.  

I tried all summer long to avoid taking the step of seeing a Psychiatrist. I’m in therapy. I tried walking. I did yoga. I transferred some of my responsibility as Payee and Problem Solving Consultant for Kendal, to his father. These things helped, but there was still lingering depression and relentless anxiety. Every time, I felt like I made a step in the right direction, something would happen to knock me on my ass again. 

I can’t tell you why it is that we as moms, put ourselves last on the list in too many ways to count. When something is wrong with one of my kids, I’m in a doctor’s office in a heartbeat. 

Over the summer, my arthritic knee was killing me. It took months before I finally gave in to go see a doctor. When my anxiety and depression was flaring, I tried all kinds of band-aids before I gave in and visited a Psychiatrist. It kind of felt like admitting weakness. Like, I just can’t handle my life. 

I asked myself, is this anxiety organic? Is it something I’ve always had, or is it just situational? Yes. I have been living under stressful, circumstances for a long time. It was getting to a point, where I felt somewhat incapacitated in growth and forward movement in any area of my life. Like the faster I go, the behinder I seem to get. 

Having to see a Psychiatrist made me feel even more depressed. I wallowed for a few days after the visit --not moving ahead with her suggested line of treatment. Until I realized, it was a necessary step for my own mental health. Just like with my boys, I have to use every possible tool in the toolbox. Otherwise, I may find myself in a position where I can't take care of anyone.

When you visit a mental health professional, they always ask, "Do you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or others?" Hah! That's a trick question. I think of knocking these boys silly all the time. I have no thought of harming myself tho. I have too much shit to do.

My name is Karen. I needed mental health treatment and I chose to get help. I hope that you will too if you need it. 
Don't let the stigma stop you from getting healthy. Take care of you. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Avoider, Protector, Fixer

Hi. My name is Karen. I am a recovering, hovering, control freak, bubble creating, autism mom.

I can't do this anymore. I mean seriously. I'm losing it. For real. This is not a drill.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to visit my best friend at her home in Houston. The invitation came right on time because earlier that week, I had been plotting a getaway. I was thinking about telling my kids that I was going to a mental hospital so they would leave me alone.

I know crazy, right? Desperate times...

I didn't really want to go to the looney bin. I just wanted a freakin' break. Like, not one phone call or text message from anybody about anything.

That weekend while I was away, I tried my best to stay off social media and actually, away from my phone altogether. I needed to totally relax and decompress.

To occupy myself in quiet moments, like when I went to the nail salon, alone,  I decided to finish the book "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. I had started it months ago but you know, I allowed life to get in the way, so I had a couple of chapters left. I turned right to a passage that basically said this.


It hit me right then and there, I have to stop trying to fix everything. Unhappiness, pain, challenges are all a part of their journey. It will make them who they are supposed to be. I am not God. I have no power to change anything.  They are eighteen and twenty-one-years-old. At this point, I am simply supposed to be here to let them know that I love them.  I'm here to listen, but not fix their problems. I have laid the proper foundation. The rest is up to them.

Besides, they are far beyond the listening to me phase. They have moved well into the blaming me for everything phase.

The ability to protect them is an illusion. They are young adults. I can not change the trajectory of their lives. I can not stop them from making mistakes. I'm in a no-win situation here. I do, however, have something to lose, like apparently, my mind.

So here's what I decided to do on my road to recovery...

First step:
  • Ask for help
Let go of control over everything and give their father a bigger role.

I'm mentally exhausted from years of trying to control everything when it comes to everyone in this family.

My husband works hard at his job. He is in charge of our finances. He's a black man, in Corporate America, who has to work extra hard just to stay on the field with his peers. Black people only make up 4% of his company's entire employee base. Although he loves his job and is an admitted workaholic, his work and the primary responsibility for our finances is a big source of stress.

I admit it. I have shut my husband out of a lot of the parenting of these boys. One, because of my own need for control.  And two, because of the stress from his job, I felt like he didn't have the energy or the patience to deal with our high needs, emotionally intensive, children. His interactions with them could become explosive in a heartbeat, especially when he felt like he was trying to protect me.

I was always on hyper-alert, trying to prevent things from escalating.  As result, I created a black hole for myself. I have taken on everything in order to keep as much peace in the family as I possibly could. I've been the circus master, the referee and the peacekeeper at the expense of my sanity.

I can't do it anymore. My body and my mind have been trying to tell me this for the longest. The depression and anxiety were so bad, I finally had to listen.

Second step:
  • Turn over the role as payee and manager of our son's finances:  
I admit I am more of a pushover and that was not teaching him a damn thing about financial responsibility.  My husband is "hardline." He is no-nonsense and excellent at budgeting and financial matters. There will be no emotion in his decisions, as it should be. Having his father managing his money will cut down on the power struggles between the two of us. The result will be less stress for everyone.

My husband sent this message to our son a few days ago.

"You can't get over on your dad. I am going to teach you how to be a real man. How to take care of your responsibilities. How to make smart decisions. How to manage your money. How to protect your money. All you have to do is listen to your father and not every person you meet at the gym and on the internet!"

Hercules! Hercules! In my mama Klump voice. 

And guess what? So far, there have been no issues or complaints. I am super thrilled with my husband and I swear I'm going to try my best to stay out of it.
Mostly.
Well, as much as humanly possible.

Third Step:
  • Create and stick to clear cut boundaries
Red had been bulldozing all over the boundaries I previously set, regarding our phone calls. He would call multiple times a day and sometimes end up screaming at me about his problems and of course blaming me. Never listening when I talk --just talking right over me. Even when I didn't answer his calls, he would text relentlessly.

I was buying into the whole his-world-is-falling-apart, bullshit.  Accepting his calls has not prevented any disasters from happening. I can not control the everyday madness of his life. He has to learn to clean up his own messes and use other resources besides me.

What I have been doing is increasing my own anxiety. I am realizing this has to stop before I seriously have a nervous breakdown.  I was always on edge waiting for the bomb to drop. It finally hit me, I can not stop any of the bombs from dropping.

We set a clear schedule for phone calls.  I will accept a call from him at the time he designated each day. Any calls outside of that time will be ignored. In fact, if he continues calling outside of the designated time, or starts calling around on our house phone, or his grandmother's phone, I will not speak to him at all on that day.

Fourth Step:
  • Create less availability and more "Me" time. 
Despite the objections (mostly from my mother) the first step on this list was going away for the weekend and refusing to accept any calls.

Blue and my mom were here with Dad and they had no choice but to deal with him or use other resources. You can bet this meant them all doing more for themselves.

I also have Yoga penned in on my schedule during which time, my phone is off.

As a result of these little changes, I am already starting to feel better. My anxiety and depression are not completely gone, but it's not as persistent. Yoga seems to help immensely. Turns out that most of the time, I forget to take deep breaths. No wonder I feel so tense?
Facebook Post
Follow me there!
I'm a hoot. 

My husband? I don't know if I've ever loved him more than I do today.  He is stepping up to the plate big time and somehow he seems less emotional when dealing with the boys. In fact, he and Blue have been hanging out and talking a lot more together.

I think he could see just how close to the edge I was getting. He has been trying to get me to step back for a long time. I just couldn't do it without his help.

Now, of course, all of these things are easier said than done. A life time of bad habits will not completely change overnight. I am however, determined to create some space between me and my adult children.  It is beyond time for them to fly. And I need to spread my wings too.