Monday, February 22, 2010

What Do I Know?

Most of the writing that I have been doing lately has been on Twitter. It is amazing how much you can find yourself saying, in chunks of 140 characters (or less), especially when you are supposed to be processing invoices for employee benefits. Oops.

Someone had reTweeted information about The Coffee Klatch, a morning chat among moms of kids with special needs. Each day there is a specific topic, most often with a guest expert. Recent topics have included managing playdates for kids with special needs, nutrition for our kids and for ourselves, and relaxation techniques. I started hanging around for the chat, picking up some great experience from amazing women. There have been several topics that relate to raising kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, such as my son’s Asperger’s Syndrome, and I have found myself speaking up in the group.

Still, I usually expect to lurk. It surprises me when I have something to contribute. For example, when Lori Lite was recently the guest, the discussion focused on calming strategies for our kids. Many kids, not just with ASD, have issues with getting to sleep or staying asleep, or both. I mentioned that one thing that helps my Peanut is the use of a weighted blanket, and I was asked to explain a little about that. Kids on the spectrum often have some form of Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD (which still makes me think of Power Rangers, though my kids have been past Power Rangers for a few years).

My son is one who craves very high amounts of sensory input. When he is especially sensory-seeking, he tends to fidget so that he bumps into people or thumps his chair around, sometimes deliberately crashing into the floor – not to hurt himself but for the constant input from objects around him. At bedtime, he likes to curl up against my side but also likes the sensation of being covered with some weight. If you are one of those people who must have some sort of cover on you to sleep, no matter how warm the weather, imagine taking that need up several notches.

In the discussion, I summarized weighted gear as therapy for kids with sensory differences, and listed the website where I found good products at reasonable prices ( And people found it helpful. Which is amazing. Amazing because this is what I want to do. Share what I have learned through writing about my experience, not as a pedantic expert but as a fellow traveler. I just didn’t think I knew enough about anything. So it is at once humbling and exalting to realize that there are things that I can write about, somewhat knowledgeably. I may know more than I had thought.

In writing what I know, I keep wanting to right more about the journey I've taken through an abusive marriage. To do that, I am in the process of setting up a new, more anonymous blog at Wordpress (so it doesn't link to the profile on this site). When it is ready, I will find a way to let you know where to find it. Thanks for reading.

Pertinent Links:

Lori Lite, creator of Stress Free Kids. @StressFreeKids on Twitter. Also

@TheCoffeeKlatch on Twitter. There is also a Facebook page, which includes useful links related to the topics of discussion. Website based on one of my favorite books on the subject, Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsay Biel and Nancy Peske. The foreword to the most recent edition is written by Dr. Temple Grandin. SPD was previously referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder.

Special Mom Talk: and@specialmomtalk on Twitter

Friday, February 12, 2010

Station - a poem. Finally.


Pitted blue glass windows
line the church aisles.
Centered in each window
a square panel depicts
one Station of the Cross:
gilt figures on black slate.

Sundays after Mass, her
Grandmother walked through
the Stations, rosary
looped over her hands,
the skin silk-smooth, loose
on the bones. The kids
would all wait in the car,
impatient for the ritual’s end.

One station: Jesus carries His Cross.
Another, He falls the first time.
He meets His mother. A murmur
accompanied the beads’ clicking.

On Fridays in Lent the upper
grades attended observance
of the Stations together.
The censer would swing gently
on its chain. Wisps of incense rose
with the priest’s thin voice:
eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani

Someone might faint
or pretend to in
the close hungry afternoon.

The priest and the altar boy attendants
moved on to the next one: Jesus dies.
He is laid in the tomb.

Between panels, the light streams in.

She tries again to repent

wonders whether peace
would come if she made
confession, if she knelt down on
marble at the communion rail
or shed penitent’s tears.
She waits in the shadow of
the great crucifix above her.

She would pray: Jesus
how You suffered,
make me good.
With thorns or a whip
or with nails
make me forget
this longing.

Monday, February 8, 2010


It is so ingrained in me that gratitude is the solution to feeling crappy that in response to my really depressing post about depression, I have to think of things for which I am grateful.

1) I work with some really cool women, including my boss who will cut me a little slack when I am struggling.
2) The Bloggess, who makes me laugh.
3) Her commenters, who keep the laugh going.
4) My kids who are smart, funny, loving and generally awesome.
5) Shoveling snow with the sun shining. It’s weird but I like it.
6) A couple of good friends who are real and who let me be real, and who even love me for this.
7) Mystery novels like Beverly Connor’s Dressed to Die (Lindsay Chamberlain series): I can’t get interested in stories like usual, but the detection process occupies my attention and gives me a reprieve from feeling crappy.
8) I have writing as an outlet.
9) I remind myself of this when nothing else is going right: I AM divorced. I did make that happen. I dealt with unhealthy dynamics and changed my life.
10) Things really aren’t as bad as they seem to me right now.

It's Ba-ack...

Damn. Today I realized that I am having a bout of depression. The clues have been there for several days: I get through the most necessary tasks like feeding the kids, washing enough dishes and clothing to keep everyone fed and dressed and I get to work. Apart from those basics, I spend most of my time in bed. I’m not sleeping, not crying, not usually reading, just lying there. Sometimes I am daydreaming. Mostly, I’m hoping to work up enough energy to do the next thing. When I do something else, like shoveling snow in the sunshine, I do feel better while I am doing it but then it is back to inertia.

This year I have learned that another clue, or symptom to watch for, is how I think of myself. I mean, to listen for the tone of the mind-chatter, the way we address ourselves fairly unconsciously through the day. This week it’s become mean and ugly (“of course I left that glass by the edge, so it would fall over. How stupid can I get?”), where I have worked to keep it fairly kind or at least neutral most of the time. It sounds like a string of verbal self-abuse, and when I recognize it, I cringe. It is both a symptom of a depression and an irritant though it was not a cause. The antidote for me is to remember my counselor asking, “if this were your best friend telling you she feels this way, what would you say to her?” Then I have to extend that loving, accepting attitude toward myself.

I hate feeling this way. I hate that I can be doing dishes or folding clothes and suddenly have tears streaming down my face. I am determined not to let the kids see it, because there has been enough upheaval, enough depression in their lives already. I hate feeling no interest, no energy, no point to doing anything. I hate experiencing life this way. But I realized that I’ve been automatically resisting it, as if I can pretend it’s not happening and it will go away, or as if by telling myself that I’m pathetic, I will snap out of it.

One morning last week I was walking in the hallway to the elevator at work when my heel slipped on the slick floor. My hands being full, I had the presence of mind to just let myself fall, so I landed pretty evenly on my rear and my left leg. I had realized that I was going to fall and that jerking around was just going to make it more jarring. In a similar way I had to identify the depression and that it might just help to accept it. Years of experience helps. It is like trying to tell yourself you’re not really getting sick with a bad cold or a flu: to a point, the positive outlook might help work through it, if it’s not a bad case. If it is bad, though, sooner or later the only thing for it is to accept it and treat it.

If I let on that I am having depression symptoms, there are people who will ask, “Are you taking your meds?” Yes, I am taking my meds. “Do you think you need different meds?” Not at this point, no. Believe it or not, sometimes an episode of depression is an appropriate response to significant stress. Significant stress for me right now includes going to a new group in which I process the specific emotional and sexual abuse of my (former) marriage. It includes having apparently imagined a connection with someone, a friend, who is not interested in me and whom I have alienated, and the shame and loss I feel over that, though it has been a year. It includes an autumn in which my younger son who has Asperger’s Syndrome, was struggling more and more with schoolwork and with appropriate behavior at school until he was getting sent home by mid-day a couple of days a week, and needed a partial hospitalization program (on an anti-depressant himself, he is doing much better now, thank God). It includes the day-to-day maintaining boundaries with the ex-husband so our children can enjoy a relationship with him, as well as getting kids to school on time, working, parenting, homework and household stuff. It includes living hand-to-mouth, as most people are doing these days. It includes my older son’s weight issues, which have progressed to insulin resistance and may be diagnosed as Type II diabetes. It includes finding a neighbor of eight years has used deception to go into my home, into my bedroom and to take things that belong to me and then lied to my face about it, because she apparently has developed a drug problem. It is as though the only things I can see are the many areas of my life that scream "Fail!" It takes intention and practice to remember there are things I am doing well, I just can't see them at the moment.

I am not asking for pity. This is just part of my journey and right now it is hard. If it doesn’t lift in a week or so, then I need to see a doctor. In the meantime, the only way out is through. I get up every day in spite of feeling weighed down. I go through the motions even though it feels like there’s no point to trying. I remember that it will pass. I try to have patience when I can’t focus on details, and when I can’t do everything that others expect from me. I am not doing things well because I barely feel up to doing them at all, like trying to function with the flu.

Most important at this time, I choose carefully the people with whom I reveal the feelings of helplessness. Sometimes the people who most want to offer a hand are hoping you will keep holding on and pull them through their own mess.

The up side of depression is that it I usually write more, in part because I don’t have the energy for the things that often distract me from writing. Housework? Who cares? Visiting people? In this frame of mind? It is awful to see the downer effect I can have on others. It is better to write. In fact I worry about upping medication because if I never feel like this at all I am afraid I will lose touch with part of myself, and it is the part that creates the most. There has to be a balance of controlling symptoms so I can function with allowing for some difficulty so I can be who I am.

The best friends to have around when I have an episode of depression are the ones who acknowledge it with a little compassion and let it be. These are the friends who accept me, with and without the weepies. Even on the bad days there are moments that I can laugh. I go to The Bloggess regularly to see what she has to say because she is always hysterical. Then I send a link or copy an excerpt in an email to my office friends to make them laugh, too. Somehow I can make funny comments in my emails, but not on the site. That’s something to work on once I’m feeling better.

The people who are hardest to have around, though I know they mean well, are the ones who say in so many words “cheer up.” They don’t realize that it is already difficult not to hate myself when I feel so lazy and worthless, or that I am trying to breathe through an impending panic attack because I just can’t handle picking up the papers I dropped on the floor. I can’t will away a depression any more than one could will away a migraine or high blood pressure. Some people just won’t believe that until they’ve had the experience themselves. On occasion I feel the urge (to use an expression of The Bloggess) to stab them in the face. Ok, not really. There isn’t enough energy for that, and then I would just feel worse. But thinking it almost made me laugh.

I can’t control this but I will get through it. The caveat is that sometimes depression doesn’t go away and the person suffering it can’t see it very clearly. Someone who is showing signs of depression for longer than two weeks or who feels like it would be easier to die is someone who needs help: talk to the person and to a mental health professional if you think it is necessary. I hope I am never that person, but I could be. Today I just want this episode to be over. Preferably right now, but I can work with ‘soon.’

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Day

Although it is the weekend, so there is no school to get cancelled, there is still something magical about all this snow. It was a good morning to sleep in. The accumulation outside reminded me of winters in the house where I grew up in Bucks County, PA. With this much snow, all eight of us would be expected (whatever our ages) to suit up and help Dad with the driveway. It is only as an adult that I realized not everyone had an enormous box of winter boots to root through to find a pair that fit. I cannot imagine how all the hats and gloves were tracked, since I can hardly keep track of the things belonging to my two boys.

Here the shoveling is not nearly such a job as we had as kids: I have a row house in Philly with a dozen or so steps and my patch of sidewalk. Really, it is just enough to stretch and get some air. Even better, a neighbor from across the street and two of his friends pitched in. Apart from that I have napped, done laundry and roasted a chicken for the kids' dinner, with which I will make soup and chicken salad tomorrow. All very homey things that I feel good doing.

The rest day, as the boys and I call it, was badly needed. I realized by the end of the week that I was on overload: Thursday and Friday I used my lunch time to close my office door, turn out the light and lie flat on the floor just to let my thoughts go. It's the recent burglary in my house and subsequent dealing with the police, my son's health, hormones and memories associated with the time of year, all sapping energy and demanding my attention. Too much! Too much! my head is telling me. It takes so much stillness for me to process things, time that would appear to be wasted when there is so much that needs doing. The house is a frightening mess, with which I can only cope in tiny steps. I seem to do everything in tiny steps.

With all the things needing my attention, the writing slips down the priority list again, until it is noticeably affecting my emotional health. I have accepted that I need to be writing to be well. There is so much I am afraid to say, or more afraid that I can't say well. Then I read some of what others are doing, for example one of the blogs on yesterday's Five Star Friday: Leap and the Net Will Appear.

There is so much to shared by just telling the truth about our lives. Even when I think I am sharing, I realize I am still, after months and even after a year, taking deep breath first. A long deep breath, and sometimes I open my mouth and nothing comes out yet or I say something unimportant and unrelated to what I want to say. I might say it's a snow day and I remember snow days from my childhood. I might say I'm struggling with a few things. Soon, after taking these tiny steps, I will be able to tell the story that is determined to find its way out into the world.