Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stress reduction

I have been diagnosed with Psoriasis. In the most simple explanation, it is a skin condition that is an autoimmune/allergic response to stress. Nothing more significant than STRESS. I don't understand how my primary doctor missed that it was not eczema this spring but had developed into full-blown psoriasis. What I do know is that I have been absolutely miserabale from this since last fall. I had eczema from stress or allergens for the year prior but this stuff developed last fall and never got any better.

Sadly, Micah was only one of my two insane stressors. The other was my own tendency to want to help people. That led me to offering our home as a sanctuary for a good friend, a single mother fleeing a bad marriage with three children in tow. Of couse, two of her children were autistic, one as severely so as Micah, and the third child was a severely neglected baby that my friend wanted nothing to do with. She came into our home under the agreement she would do childcare and housekeeping in exchange for free housing, and proceeded to sit down and do nothing but expect me to parent for her for the first two months.

I should have run at that point. However, she eventually learned how to assist with Micah's needs, which was golden, and I feel very responsible for her children once I had brought them into my home. It felt monstorous to turn my back on three children I knew would not be safe and cared for if I asked this friend to leave my home. Yet, the stress of parenting her three children on top of my chlidren, the stress of constantly trying to convince her that she really *did* have to do something other than enjoy the advantages of living in my home was a nightmare.

When Micah died, this friend had a bizarre and sudden personality change. She became unpredictable and unsafe. We attempted to direct her towards housekeeping so that she would still earn her housing and her children would be safe. However, she felt that meant she would perform approximately 45 minutes of work on the kitchen three to four days per week only. This too was unacceptable. Her behaviors continued to deteriorate and my stress went through the roof.

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we could not sacrifice my heart and soul to attempt to save someone else's children from their own parent, and that our children desperately needed me to devote what was being sucked up by this friend to actually support OUR children. Firing and removing the stress from our home became a month long stressor worse than losing Micah was.

The nanny opted to fall into the company of a trashy boyfriend and decided that acting trashy herself was the optima answer to the conflict. Multiple attempts to mitigate the behaviors and try to part company still friends had to ultimately abandoned for the option of removing someone who was behaving paranoid and bizarre and nothing like the friend I had known for several years.

All of my research indicates there are only three categories of events that cause sudden personality changes in adults. The first are brain injuries. These include head trauma, strokes, tumors, brain infections. We know this category is not the plausible explanation for what occurred to our family. The second category is severe mental health issues. We knew there were underlying mental health struggles and certainly mental health issues is a possible explanation. However, having observed this person in my home for a year and seen the struggles with mental health cycle throughout that year, I can honestly say this event was different. It had a sudden onset which began the week Micah was dying and dramatically escalated from that point forward so that I have been unable to even THINK about my grief process since Micah's death due to this situation. The third category of events is drug usage. Hmm....this is in an interesting category. Certainly, the new trashy boyfriend was a ready supply, and the behaviors do seem consistent.

While I would love to have closure and understanding of what actually happened to my friend, the reality is that it's not important. The Psoraisis and heart palapatations the lies, and the deliberate attempts to cause harm to my family are enough to know that this person is not safe for my family and cannot be permitted to EVER be near my children again. This is also exactly what the police officer she called in finally bothering to remove the last of her possessions informed her when she thought she would find a sympathetic ear--she was to get her stuff without speaking to anyone and to never contact us again.

I haven't had a friend betray me since middle school, and that friend long since apologized for being a typical, lost teenager. This friend was much more malicious and it is my undestanding from mutual friends that she continues to be malicious and dishonest. I am grateful that most of my friends know me and know when something sounds extremely inconsistent to them. We will work to heal the other ramifications of this former friend and nanny's choices and behaviors with our family as well.

What this has taught me is that as much as I strive so desperately to behave in a truly Anabaptist fashion and with the outlook of Anne Frank, ultimately Anne Frank was killed and most Anabaptists don't actually engage in the outside world. As much as I constantly want to help those I love when they need a helping hand, I will never, ever attempt to help someone so intimately and by bringing them into my house again. My home needs to be sacrosanct for my children. They have lost too much and losing a beloved nanny and their best friends in this experience was more loss than they should have had to endure. I cannot make other adults choose to be mature and loving adults, thus I cannot offer my home as sanctuary for anyone beyond the children it is meant to be the sanctuary for in the first place.

When we did the morally right act of contacting the father of the children and providing him with information he will need to protect his children, if he is willing to step up and do so, he said one thing that made me cry. He said my friend must have loved Micah very much for her to have fallen THIS far in his death. This man who was not a kind man to this friend, who has been a marginal, but at least safer than where she is and what she is doing now, parent hit this with such clarity it was shocking. Maybe this friend's underlying mental health struggles predisposed her to fall this way. Maybe it was bound to happen regardless. However, this man is right, she was devoted to my son as much as I was in that final year. She loved Micah very much, and whatever has happened to her since his death, I do believe it is the result of her insistance that she wants to run from the grief and deny that my son mattered in her life or the lives of her children. Whether she has had a total mental breakdown, or whether she has turned to her boyfriend's endless supply of narcotic pain killers and muscle relaxers, she is trying to run and deny the grief that overwhelmed her.

In the process, she nearly killed me as well. The stress of trying to help a friend not fall down, and then trying to get the ropes removed as fast as you can before you fall in and drown with that friend, has been insane. All I wanted to do was learn to live again without my son. TODAY, I can finally close that chapter in our lives that was distracting us and causing my body to stop functioning on me. NOW, we can go back to focusing on the grief and new normalicy from losing Micah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


So much as happened since I last wrote. Life is so overwhelming that journaling is the last thing I've been able to think about right now. The children are stabilizing and preparing to go to school. It is a great relief for me, as monitoring their daily needs has been exhausting some day.

I am looking foward to the fall where I will have one homeschooling and one preschooler. Since we have been returned to a budget of absolutely no extras now, it would be nice if my RN license would be issued so I could start looking for a part-time job. However, even without that, the fall is going to be an interesting time for me. I will have the opportunity to shower attention on my preschooler in ways I haven't done since the first one. I will have the chance to do consistent field trips with my homeschooler that I had to stop years ago because of the chaos of so many children. I'm letting go of the burden and the stress of the child still not 100% up to grade level but nearly there. I'm turning his ESL issues over to the school system. I've had several positive conversations with one of the Special Education teachers and the Special Education department about this son and I am confident they will carry him forward to finish resolving his struggles for me. I will only be carrying the responsibility for the profoundly dysleixic child now. Frankly if he were not Apraxic, Asperger, and extremely high IQ I would turn him over to the school system as well. I think since it will just be him finally, I can give him the attention he needs. I know he would shut down in his grief if I tried to send him to school, though the school system insists they could take on his challenges if I wanted to give him to them. I think they are idealistic but have never met an enigma like this child before, honestly.

We fired our nanny in the last month as well. She had been a personal friend who needed a helping hand in her life. We bartered free housing (and the safety net and resources of our family so that she was not a struggling single mother) in exchange for housekeeping and childcare. She struggled mightily and was often inconsistent in her working, but we continued to try to work with her because she could handle Micah and because we wanted to continue to be the safety net for her children. In the end, she completed stuffed her grief into a dark place inside of her. She forbad all mention of Micah's name in her precense. Grief denied will eat you up inside. When you had pre-existing struggles and you do that, she became a sad practical example to the children of why I insist they face their grief and process even what hurts them. The nanny flaked out and choose to run away from her grief. Even the her of three months ago would not recognize where she has gone now. We had to choose to try to continue to support her, at the cost of my health and well being, or set her loose to sink or swim on her own. I am distressed that I lost a friend. I am saddened that her children have been left to be under the instability her grief has created. However, I had to put my family first. I could not attempt to rescue her and her children (and you really cannot rescue a grown adult against their wishes) or care for my own family. I chose my children over her family. Much as that hurt, it was the only decision that could be made.

The only complication not having a nanny will create is up to two mornings a week when I hope to be coming off nightshift and II has to get to work. He can get the five early bus riders up and off to school. However, he cannot stay at home until I get home. The homeschooler is slightly too young to be responsible for getting a kindergartener off to school, even if I pay him. He may or may not be old enough to babysit a preschooler for a short period of time. There is up to a two hour gap in coverage for the youngest children, which includes getting the Kindergartener off to school. There is a stay at home mother of two preschoolers who lives next door. My plan is to speak to her and see if I can pay her for up to two hours, two mornings per week. II could take all three children to her house. The homeschooler could walk the kindergartner back across the yards to the bus stop and then come into our house to start his schooling, and the preschooler could stay with her until I am home for certain. It would be before she might be wanting to run errands or field trips for her own day, and I know her family rises very early. They go to bed at 6pm and I often hear them up and playing outside by 7am. So, it won't involve her having to get up early to accomplish.

This family is a young, Christian family that is working on adopting special needs children. So, I am hopeful that she will recognize our shared vision and be willing to earn some pocket change. I'm also hopeful she might be willing to earn more than pocket change in the timeframe I will have to work full-time hours to do my training at any job I do secure. I haven't lost my faith in other Christians on a personal level yet. In fact, in personal relationships, Christians have often shown me that those I seek out can and are more than willing to walk the faith they claim to hold. So, I shall see if this family is willing to be of assistance. If not, I will search for a caregiver elsewhere. If she is willing, then that would be the best scenario for my children. I won't have other childcare needs again until next summer when I start preceptorships in my BSN program. My children will be home for the summer then and I can hire my teenagers to assist me in that need. Next fall, we will either be more integrated locally, or we will return to where we came from and our support system there is strong.

We have a church we are going to try. We intended to send II to try it this last Sunday. However, after we moved the nanny's belongings out of the wing of the house she occupied, we decided to do a major shift in the room situation. Thus, we spent the weekend moving all three girs up a spiral staircase into the rooms the nanny once occupied. We then moved the second teenager out of the closet-size room that once belonged to Micah and into the large room that belonged to the younger two girls. The room that was formally the oldest girl's room, and is across from the dining room, is in the process of being converted into the library, and the room that was part of the library (because it was a small room and my books spilled into a back hallway from there) will become the last homeschooler's school room. The homeschooler currently has a hidden reading nook behind the spilled out library. I will be converting his little spot under the spiral staircase into a more formalized and customized nook for him.

Also, since the nanny's two Autism spectrum boys are gone along with their highly destructive ways, I am returning many of the toys into the preschooler/kindergarten playroom that I feared they were destroying before. Without her climbing, curious baby and those boys who needed blocked from my older children's possessions, there is no longer any need for baby gates in the house. Well, almost. I believe the Landlord had dogs with very bad potty manners. My normally well behaved puppy has targetted the room that belonged to E and is now the library with a never ending stream of very bad doggy behavior in there. So, we put up the last baby gate in the doorway. We didn't want a door to the library, but we don't want doggy to have any more chances to damage that carpet or be encouraged in poor behaviors. So, the baby gate stays closed to keep the puppy out of the library. There remains an unlocked plywood gate between the loft playroom and the boys' bedrooms for the same reason. Otherwise, my house is finally open and navigable.

I am overwhelmed with the size and functionability of this house now that it is just our own family. II assures me it is only 4000 square feet, but it feels more like 5000 to me. I have chalenged him to measure the rooms and confirm who is correct. J is hammering that he wants to have Micah's old tiny bedroom. It is very tiny, but J is only three and only has a dresser, a rocking chair, and a toddler bed. It is the empty room in the wing with all of the "big boys" and J wants to be with his brothers. However, it is on a side of the house that is heated by the coal stove and is quite cold at night in the winter. We are trying to convince J to stay next to us, in a room with baseboard heating, through this winter. We're not certain we are going to win the argument. We may instead be stuck stocking up on footed fleece sleepers for todder boy.

We must decide in the next year if we are going to stay here in New England, or return home to the school, and whether II will take the deferrment he holds for medical school or not. Again and again, II and I cannot decide where we stand on this. This community opened their arms to our family as complete strangers. The neighbors have been wonderful. The school district has been wonderful. The schools have been terrific for taking my homeschooled children under their wings and recognizig their talents instead of hearing "eduational neglect" when they heard homeschooling. II's work has been like family to us from the get-go. He has never worked for a more family friendly company, down to the fact that when Micah nearly died in January they purchased him a plane ticket and sent him home to his son immediately when they learned what was going on. They also chastized him for attempting to work under those circumstances. If II doesn't go to medical school, it mght be foolish to attempt another company with our large, special needs family in tow. There was a famous, nasty exchange between II and his (supposedly observant Catholic) boss when we first adopted Micah. The man informed II that II choose to adopt a terminal child. It wasn't the company's problem and they would NOT be allowing him to miss work for anything related to that terminal child's care. That was when we learned how to navigate and file FMLA paperwork, since the man's statement was illegal and insensitive.

However, we're uncertain if the Landlord will be willing to sell this farm to us. When we first rented, he indicated he was interested. He and his wife still appear overly attached to this farm. It is a beautiful farm, there is no question about that. Yet, he has a highly specialised career and the closest place he can work in his career is five hours from this place now. His job was closed three years ago locally. He commuted down into another state for the first two years and last year had to move his family down there since they could not do the commute any longer. Even still, his career makes a lot of money which affords him the ability to potentially cover this mortgage and housing where he currently resides. He is also in his 50s and we fear may have the intention of retiring and returning to this farm. His entire family lives down where he now works. Yet, he refused to allow the local farmer to cut the hay on this property for fear the tractors would put ruts in 9 acres of fields he had rolled to smooth them out for six years. I've never heard of anyone rolling an entire farm of acrage to make it smooth like a country club and thus our fear that they won't sell to us....or just as bad insist upon selling at what they paid for the property which is 1/3 greater than current market value of the place, and thus shut us out from being capable of obtaining a mortgage.

I still feel so much in transition. What life was like after Micah died was something I never let myself consider. So many days, living feels surreal now. Just identifying a church we feel comfortable trying, and realizing that we are now free to test a church again because they cannot reject us over Micah, is overwhelming. Working with helping the children process and grief and move into school is new territory for me. Setting up to go back to work, necessary to help relieve some of the tension in our budget but also to build towards my career goals and to give me an outlet for me is a place I never imagined I would be standing in again. It's impossible to know where we will be in a year, because it's impossible for me to see the future ahead of me anymore. My reality now seems to be in finding how to see that future and see it without Micah in it now.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Three weeks

Grief is driving three children to individual therapy when all you really want to do is crawl in a cave and hide.

It's staying pleasant when one child snarls at you, even if what you want to say is 'get over yourself, you aren't the only one hurting.' Instead, you stay calm and upbeat when you tell the snarler that sure he can have food....once you get home again.

It's staying calm but firm when a second child wails at you for daring to tell said wailer that they must find your address book when they get home. What you want to say is, "stop lying through your teeth, I saw it in your room last week and half the people here this weekend complained about your lying all weekend so just knock the crap off and find the stuff you stole from me." Instead, you simply firmly state that you are not going to engage said child in an argument but you insist that you have your address book back today. Okay, you do make wailer return and try again when they slam the car door with so much anger and venom that it jars your teeth but even then you don't let yourself snap.

It's letting your heart break when the third child sits hidden in a shell and will not crawl out and engage you. This one of your most devoted and attached children, who fought through so much to attach. What you want to say is, "Please, please, please find your strength, baby. I cannot face losing your heart in this grief if you cannot, and I fear you will not find yourself again if you let yourself get lost." Instead, you touch this child. You talk as if this child is responding. You show love and remind this child that family and attachments are still intact, even when hearts are breaking.

After an exhausting day of shuttling children (the children who had individual therapy yesterday blessedly see their therapists at the house), all you really want to do is hide and cry. Instead, you sit on the couch and engage these children as they periodically walk through the living room to touch base with you. You force yourself to eat something, anything, because you remember that you have absolutely no patience for their fighting if you don't. You drink, not because you remember you are actually thirsty but because you've realized you will be suddenly thirsty an hour before bed and then you will be up peeing all night and lose what little hope you have of sleeping for yet another night.

You engage these children. You mother the living. You remind yourself that you don't have time or space to shut down, their needs are far too great for that. You comfort yourself with the knowledge that after dinner, you will grant them permission to play the Wii which they will do the entire time you escape to punish your body in ways you cannot punish your heart and soul.

There is no time to get depressed. There is simply too much which must be done every day and every hour. Today is three weeks. It already feels like a lifetime.

We found Mario, the missing piece to the Mario Brothers chess set. We knew all along that Micah HAD to have hidden Mario. He was obssessed with Mickey Mouse and Mario. I used to have to stop him from carrying Mario around like his own personal collectible. We found him hidden under the diapers for the nanny's toddler. It was a very Micah style hiding place. I'm not sure if I'm happy to have found him or sad that I completed Micah's last game of hide and seak.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Parallel pain

I started walking three full months ago. My goal was not to lose weight, nor even to get in shape. My only goal was to rebuild my lung capacity. It's a darn good thing that was my only goal. I have not lost a single pound in those three months. I have gotten into better shape than what I was, but not nearly the shape I would expect to be in given the exercise I have engaged in consistently, every week, for a month now.

I always intended to walk a minimum of three times per week. I always exceeded that goal by walking a least four times per week. I accomplished this through two sprains and a bone injury to my foot, even if I had to move slowly. The week Micah died, I only walked once. I reassured myself that I would be back in the habit afterward and gave myself time and space to grieve instead.

The next week, it hurt. No one tells you that grief hurts physically. Every step I took was agony that week. Worse than my physical distress was that mentally I was ready to give up. In that moment, recognizing that I had never lost a single pound AND that after three months I hurt like I was just starting out, I struggled. That week, I only met my minimum goal of the three times per week.

Last week, the physical pain was slightly less, but the mental shut down was far worse. With company coming for Micah's funeral, I once again only met my minimum goal. I also endured the love and support of having 24 people enter my home and stay with us for Micah's memorial service this last Saturday.

I was not getting up in the morning to walk. When I did walk, it was in the afternoon or evening. Truthfully, the only thing that pushed me to still walk was that II walked with me. If he had not, I absolutely would have given up.

Until very recently, I haven't even seen a change in my shape from all of the effort I put into walking. I'm still the same size clothing. I haven't lost a single pound. I still struggle with aerobic exercise outside of the walking. What was the point? I used to walk to clear my head and to escape what I had to endure in my home every day. Micah is dead. I don't need a break from him to maintain my sanity anymore.

I did build my lung capacity, dramatically. I also, just recently, saw a sudden drop of nearly five inches to my waist. I did not drop any in my chest or hips. However, long-term this is actually a good developmentt. Before my thyroid crashed, I was a classic hourglass figure. Once my thyroid started to crash, my shape changed to an apple long before the weight skyrocketed. To lose five inches in my waist but maintain the rest of my body the same as before is a very strong indication that I am breaking through the thyroid hold. The few times I have pulled my weight back since my thyroid crashed on me, weight loss always came AFTER the shift back towards an hourglass shape occurred.

Yet, I just don't care anymore. My children require I be here for them and monitor their coping. My body has never responded in any of the expected ways to walking. So, what was the point. After three months of fighting for this, fighting for ME, my ankle burned as if I had torn that tendon yesterday and not over 15 years ago.

My massage therapist listened to me comment about the burning in the ankle and worked extensively on it last week. That eliminated the burning, but still I did not mentally want to be doing this anymore.

When I took Ch to therapy last week, I picked up a magazine. There was an article about walking for weight loss. I am not a runner. I never will be. This program was a training program to utilize all of the benefits of walking and changing it to a pattern that causes weight loss. Basically, it talked about having to get to a 4mi/hr pace for weight loss. Um yeah, my top speed EVER was just over 3mi/hr. However the program was a training program on how to get TO that level of walking and then maintain it.

Intrigued that this might be healthy for me *and* help with the mental abandonment I was experiencing, I took notes. I even took pictures of the descriptions of the strengthening exercises that were meant to accompany it. I decided that when the last of the company left, I would attempt this. It was something to hold onto to hold onto ME in all of this overwhelming grief right now.

Today was my first day of the program. Well, I've been doing the independent strengthening exercises, meant to build core muscles, since first of the week. However, I did the first day of speed walking training today. The program is not meant to get you to the speed walking method quickly. In fact, it's 60 second bursts of the speed walking. It's supposed to be alternating speed walking and brisk walking for a mile. Let's just say I will need to do a LOT of work to build to this. I may require more than four weeks that it's supposed to take to get there, even.

What matters is that I am no longer struggling with the desire to abandon my own needs. I am strangely intrigued, even though every part of my body is screaming now. I'm plottting how best to make this program work for me and marking my path on the road to fit this program instead of what I have been doing.

There's something even bigger though. This HURTS. My muscles are not accustomed to working and moving in the method utilized by this program, even though I walk a lot. It hurts. It makes me pant. It makes me want to scream. It makes me want to kick and cuss and throw things. This feels punishing and agony. It is brutal on my body and it screams for me to stop. It feels cathartic. I cannot force my grief to come simply because I have a moment of safety. I cannot allow myself to break down when the children need me so desperately, but even in those moments when it is safe, I cannot let it flow after working so hard to contain it for their sakes. Something about this brutality towards my body is grief in action for me. I can scream with my body in ways that I cannot scream with my mouth right now. Maybe the river of tears will come. Maybe I will make myself cry out in pain while I force my body to train and work in a new method that is healthy for me, and I will channel my grief and pain into something good, something that might somehow heal my body and my soul.

The night we started morphine for Micah, I ran away. I didn't realize it until later, but I was speed walking. I walked two full miles in twenty minutes. I hit the pace this program says I'm supposed to walk, and I didn't feel it. In pushing my body to the extreme, I pushed my pain into that numbness. It was healing then. It is healing now. So, I walk. I walk and I push harder. I remain stoic and a fortress of strength in the home where my children need me to be so. Yet, when I walk out that door, I can push into my own pain. I can take it out and let it flow through my body when I am alone and will not scare these children. It feels healing to attempt this right now, to hold the pain that chokes my soul and I ignore for their sakes for those moments so that it does not choke out my life in trying to be what they need otherwise. It gives me strength to carry on.