Monday, December 29, 2008

Psycho - The Reality Series

I have a private blog that I call "At the Trough...Notes on Relationships, Eating, Depression, and other bad things" where I run through the stuff that no one, including my mother, would think sane. I mean I'm not Norma Bates.....but my life is (quoting a friend's 4 year old nephew concerning his relationships at preschool) confusing...and very complicated.

I've written posts about my kids troubles, my troubles. I'd like to chronicle my journey to a different life in California. Yes, I'm nuts. Yes, I will have many, many hurdles to jump, but I know going there is the best thing for me. I won't survive here. Whether it's the weather or missing my family or whatever.

Part of this comes from the bottom line realization that the man I've been with for 6 years doesn't want to marry me or plan a non-married life with me. I've known that for about 2 years and I accepted and went with it. It was very painful when he told me his reasons. It was painful, but I understood. But my children are my children, good or bad, sick or well, perfect or not. He could learn about their emotional problems....or learn how to help or deal with them, but he doesn't/won't/can't. That's ok. But it's time for me to move on. Move on from here, move on from that relationship that won't go anywhere.

If I tell him why I want to leave and he does make an offer of living together, I don't think I want to do that. I don't want to marry him either. He told me how he felt about the kids and that won't ever go away. If he had said something about down the road....if he had ever mentioned our future together once everyone was grown and on their own...well, maybe it would be different. But I'm not a last choice, I'm not a forced hand. I'm worth so much more. And I forget that on a regular basis. California Dreamin' first goal is moving 7/1/2010. I've got a house to pack and sell, a life to plan, my daughter's hysterical outbursts to plan for and handle.

Perhaps this will finally get me to lift my rear end from the sofa.

California Dreamin' Part 2

And that's dreaming on several different levels.

I just applied for a job on-line at a Palm Springs Hospital. It's an interesting job and one I know I could handle. I have the skills and the experience. I, however, live in Chicago. That's approximately a 1700 mile drive. Talk about a commute.

I sincerely doubt that there is no one else in the State of California that could fill this job post. That's why I'm sure I won't get an offer....BUT.....I'm dreaming.

Dreaming of leaving Chicago (which is a beautiful city, BTW) and being near my family in southern California. Dreaming of a better/different life for me because of the support of my family, dreaming of a better/different life for my kids. I think I can be a better parent, a happier person, if I were near my family.

Sure. Be a killjoy. I know the problems I have here will follow me where ever I go (save snow shoveling and trying to open the car door after it's been frozen shut), but I think I could handle things better with my family near me. But once again, it's a Sophie's Choice. Only the choice is between what's good for me and what's probably better for my kids. Specifically my daughter. It might be hard on her to get uprooted and start a new life. And perhaps my cats whiskers might be disjointed for a day or two. But I want to go. I want to go. I want to be able to take a ride on a Saturday and see my cousin. I want to be able to call my cousin if I'm in the hospital and need someone. I have friends here....but it's just not the same. Unless you are in my shoes, it's hard to explain that need....that connection. The older I get, the stronger it is.

And I hear you. Do that Pro/Con thing. But really it comes down to worry, fear, choices. Just like everything else in life. And lately, I wouldn't trust myself to think my way out of a paper bag.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.....

The holidays. I know. Empty for some, hectic for others. Lonely for some, too many people for others. Me? Right now, I’d be happy if I never had to see anyone until next Sunday, when Anne and I are going to the movies to see Don Draper in “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.

Depressed? I guess. Christmas blahs? Maybe. Tired of the commercialization? Not really – you either get what Christmas is about or you don’t.

Christmas’s when I was younger were smaller, quieter affairs after my grandparents, aunt and cousin moved to California in the early 60’s. It was usually me, my mom and dad and the family pets. A nice Christmas eve dinner and gifts, then usually a viewing of “The Quiet Man” on WGN.

We never went all that crazy at Christmas. My dad worked Christmas Eve until 2, then went to this higher end girls’ and women’s clothing store and bought one gift for my mom and one gift for me before they closed at 4. No cheapskate he, it was usually a cashmere sweater or a wool blazer or a silk blouse or something that set him back a pretty penny even though he was only buying two things. My dad taught me quality over quantity always.

Christmas Day we sometimes went to visit friends, sometimes we just stayed home. It didn’t matter to me. I had my stuff from Santa, my cat, a safe place to lay my head, parents who loved me. I was fine.

I was fine even after my parents died because I had small kids to plan for. I always tried to spend some time alone at Christmas in memory of my parents. I had my boo-hoo, then got right back up and made things nice for my family.

I’m not exactly sure why – maybe because the kids are older, maybe because I’m older, maybe because I’m tired of holding everything together through a bad marriage, a horrible divorce, illnesses – but I need to find a place to lay my head once again. I’m not sure what that means right now. My heart is tired, my soul is old. The body and spirit are both weak.

As I’ve believed and been told numerous times, All Things Must Pass. Nothing is permanent. It’s temporary. But is it temporary in the space of a lifetime or temporary in terms of the entire history of the universe? Since God is infinite and limitless, does He understand that temporary to ME might be a lot different than temporary to HIM?

I’ve been blessed with many, many things. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful for my friends and children; my job, my home, the pets who have warmed my lap over the years. I’ve tried to maintain a perky outlook on life because I’m basically an optimistic person and believed George Harrison. And I’ve sometimes struggled to keep my head afloat – but somehow I did.

I’m just not sure I can do it anymore. This isn’t like a suicide shout. This is like an admission that life and reality have chewed me up and spit me out. Will I ever laugh again? Yes. Will I enjoy life? Perhaps. But me and life have had a running showdown and I lost. To be completely fair, I gave it a good run for its money.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Here Comes the Son

And I say, sometimes it's all right and sometimes it's not.

Look at that picture. Young man—high school graduate, college bound. Smiling, well nourished. Bright, shining future. Well, if your Son looks nothing like him, you've come to the right place.

Now don't get me wrong. My son Sean is the apple of my eye. He always has been, and up to his junior year in high school 2 years ago, he could have been that kid in the picture. Now we are at a whole different juncture. His being 18 and of "legal age", well, your options as a parent concerned about his health are very, very limited.

To continue with the story of my kids from a previous post, Sean was diagnosed with clinical depression about a year ago. He didn't care about anything. He didn't care about school, he didn't care about graduating, he didn't care about taking care of himself, he didn't care about his sister or me, he didn't care about eating, he didn't care about working. All he basically cared about was sleeping and running around with his friends. My normally very funny, very personable son was turning into Mr. Hyde. Oh, he could turn on Dr. Jekyll for short bursts if he had to, but it was becoming harder and harder. He chain smoked, smoked pot. Came home totally wasted one night, where he had spent part of it passed out on my front lawn. A girl dumped him and everything spiraled out of control. Every thing went right downhill until my 5'11 inch beautiful son weighed 113 pounds, had a heart rate of 38 and a blood pressure of 90/60.

I had done everything I could think of up to this point to intervene. Doctors, counselors, psychologists, 2 different psychiatrists. I begged, I pleaded, I punished, I cajoled, I guilted, I bribed, I prayed. And then I begged and pleaded some more. Last July, I talked him into an assessment at a local behavioral health hospital. They put us in the ER because his heart rate was so low. When they released us from the ER, I took him back to the behavioral health hospital, where, even after acknowledging he was putting his life at risk, he walked out. I took him back after more talking. And he wouldn't get out of the car.

"He's 18," they said. "You can't force him."

That's a great thing to hear. You feel your son is dying and there's not a thing you can do until he 1. passes out; or 2. finally agrees to hospitalization.

Days came and went after that. Some up and some down. Mostly down. Then last week, after he slept through Thanksgiving and couldn't eat, I sat down again and begged and talked and pleaded and appealed to the one thing he has always held onto: his music. If it wasn't for music, I think he wouldn't be around anymore. But his love of music and the guitar and playing kept him alive. So I told him, how does he expect to go to music school next year if he's anorexic, depressed, and suffering from panic attacks? I refused to help him until he helped himself.

That sent us to the same behavioral health hospital that my daughter is at, where she is still in the Adolescent Anxiety/School Refusal program, but doing very well. He was assessed again....and with some quick moves and fast talking, they got him to sign the inpatient admission voluntarily and escorted him to the 2nd floor -- "High Functioning Adult Unit".

As a preview to come, when they started to walk us to the 2nd floor, Sean looked panic stricken.

"What's wrong?" asked the social worker.
"I'm going NOW?" asked Sean.
"Yes," he answered. "You signed the papers as inpatient didn't you?"
"Well, yes."
"Well, yes."
"Then what did you think would happen?"
"Well," Sean said. "I don't want to go up there now. I'll come back in the morning and be admitted. I didn't know I'd have to go today...right now."

And he looked at me and said he wasn't going. I told him I hadn't signed a thing. They hadn't even talked to me but for about 5 minutes and I was there when he signed the inpatient agreement. I told him I couldn't do a thing. He was an adult in the eyes of the law and the hospital.

The social worker took him in a private room while Erin and I waited outside. Eventually, they got him admitted to the second floor.

That's when the real nightmare begins.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Emotional Rescue

I will spare you the details, but let's just summarize by saying that my two children have ended up as either an inpatient or partial hospital patient at a behavioral health hospital over the last 2 weeks.

Erin was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in second grade and I was finally able to secure an IEP for her last year after much wrangling, letter writing, meetings with the school staff and emotional pleading. This year, Erin moved to the middle school for 7th and 8th grade, and the transition has been one trauma after another. After another....until she pronounced every morning with vague physical symptoms -- stomachaches, dizziness, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, back pain, neck pain, light sensitivity -- to name a few. I continued to try to get her to school at least at SOME POINT over the course of the day. I met with social workers, teachers, principals and asst principals. Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians. If you have an M.D. or PhD or MSW after your name and live within 25 miles of me, I SAW you.

I spun so fast I'm surprised my head is still attached.

But finally, not through professional channels however, I opened up to several women who had opened up about their struggles with their kids. I found out about a School Refusal/Adolescent Anxiety program at a hospital that is about 25 miles from my house. After Erin had a panic/anxiety attack which resulted in her taking a butcher knife to my door frames, furniture, counter top and walls, I made an appointment and took her in immediately. They placed her in the program which is a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program). This means that she is at the hospital every day, but comes home at night. She gets individual and group therapy, medication management, behavioral and cognitive therapies, coping strategies, expressive and spiritual exercises, as well as what they call "Exposures". This places the child in an anxiety producing situation in a safe atmosphere, and allows the other program participants and therapists to help the child work through it. The more "Exposures", the better they become at handling potential anxiety producing experiences. Erin has blossomed over the last couple of weeks and was comfortable in the program from day one. It is definitely a reassuring thing to learn there are other people just like you, struggling everyday with the same things.

They also provide team meetings and support groups for parents, which I have attended faithfully and have been a tremendous help. I'm learning just as much as Erin about how to help her cope and keep myself sane.

Here are some of the program's highlights:

"Our treatment approach includes working with your child's school, the parent(s) and other outside resources to best identify and meet your child's unique needs. Our school liaison and educational staff will work with your child or adolescent on issues such as:

* Returning to school
* Problem solving
* Time management
* Study skills
* Regulating moods such as depression and irritability
* Overcoming extreme shyness
* School phobia
* Panic attacks
* Obsessive compulsive disorder
* Goal planning"

It's a 3-4 week program and the one I found has a excellent success rate. Should your child be experiencing School Refusal/Anxiety, there is help out there. It's taken me 8 years to get to a place where I feel my daughter is really getting the help she needs.

She will be transitioning back into her regular school on Monday after 3 weeks in the program. They usually begin by 1-2 days at regular school, 2-3 days back in the program and taper from there. Keep your fingers crossed.

My son is a whole other story.

California Dreamin'

on such a winter's day. Yes, it's cold here -- 11 degrees this morning and we've got about 10 inches of snow -- but it's a regular Chicago winter day. However, the older I get, the more I dream of California. Not just because of the weather, but because of family.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Abe-ster

When Anne and I went to Springfield last month (and took a picture of the Capital Building which really wasn't the Capital Building), we made our usual purchases at the Abraham Lincoln Museum Gift Shop. This usually consists of some combination of books, doo-dads, and tee-shirts. With the 200th anniversary of Abe's birth coming up in February of 2009, there was a lot merchandise because of the bi-centennial. I purchased an enormous book that was first written during Abraham's life and presidency, revised after his death and again for the bi-centennial. It is a tough read as it is strictly a period piece written in the style of the time. People in the early 1800's wrote nothing like we do today. So it the Chaucer principle. You get into the flow and just go with it.

But I did get one little book written in a form I could understand quickly (no, it wasn't "Abraham Lincoln For Dummies"), but 101 Things You Didn't Know About Abe. In reviewing the book, there were only several that neither Anne nor myself knew. But here, for your reading and historical pleasure are a couple of things you might not have known about our 16th President.

1. Abraham Lincoln was named after his paternal grandfather who was a wealthy landowner in Virginia. He eventually moved his family to Kentucky and was killed by an Indian attack. Neither our president nor his paternal grandfather had a middle name.

2. Lincoln is the only U.S. President to be awarded a patent. It was for a manner of applying adjustable bouyant air chambers to stream boats so they could easily pass over shallow water or sand bars.

3. In a strange turn of events, Robert Lincoln was standing beside a railroad track when he was shoved downward onto the rails by the push of the crowd. A man behind him yanked him up by his coat collar and saved his life. The man's name was Edwin Booth. His brother, John Wilkes Booth, would kill Robert's father 2 years later.

And of course, #4 -- was Ann Rutledge the true love of Lincoln's life?

Yes. Absolutely. I don't know what the book says about it, but Ann and Abe were star-crossed lovers whose passion never came to fruition.

Like Abe, Anne (the other one) and I love a good story.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Co-Dependent Fight Song

How Dare You, Barry Manilow!!

I just realized the song "Can't Smile Without You" which is tied to Manilow like a co-dependent to his/her enabler, is the National Anthem of the Co-Dependent/Enablers Union**, of which I am a card carrying member. Oh, you disagree? Take a gander:

"You know I can't smile without you,
Can't smile without you.
I can't laugh and I can't sing,
I'm finding it hard to do anything.

You see I feel sad when you're sad,
I feel glad when your glad,
If you only knew what I'm going through,
I just can't smile without you."

HUH? HUH? What about THOSE lyrics? Granted, Manilow didn't write the darn thing, but it's been one of his signature songs for a long time. He used to bring women up onto the stage to actually sing it with him (until one lady grabbed a hold of his ass and wouldn't let go, which he didn't think was particularly funny....). But what did he expect? She was CO-DEPENDENT for heaven's sakes. She was hearing her Fight Song! Her Anthem!! She got a hold of her Co-Dependee and wouldn't let go until security shot her up with fentenyl and versed and used the Jaws of Life to pry her clamped fingers off his rear end (just kidding--but as with all jokes, there's a grain of truth in them. It's up to you to find out what's true and what isn't. I'm just telling a story here and empowered with literary license).

Barry thinks "Can't Smile" is a chipper ol' song about undying love and pining away. Sure it is.....the enabler is just pining away to get her lover out of jail after his 6th DUI (golly, he only really drinks one or two on the weekends), or not questioning the strange massive withdrawals from your checking account after you gave your boyfriend of 2 months access to your account number. Why make him mad? He LOVES you. He'll pay you back. He's a great guy. Or calling the school over and over to say your teenager is sick while she is really just hung over after being up all night on the computer talking to Sid, whom you haven't determined is female or male or under 45.

Or how about just old fashioned anger? How about being that enabler who knows that any anger erupting within a 45 mile radius to due to something she had either DONE or FAILED to do and then must make everything better even if it means selling her own soul to the devil. An enabler would be HAPPY to sell her soul if it would assure that everyone is happy and not making her pay (cuz you know, 'someone HAS to pay') for every mistake that ever happened in the history of the planet. I know. I tried! You wouldn't believe how HARD it is to sell your soul. Really. Some souls Lucifer just ain't interested in -- imagine what THAT does to your confidence level.

Anyway, Barry, tell it like it is. "Can't Smile" is a sad, sad song about co-dependents unable to live their own life because they are too busy enabling someone else's life. They "can't smile" unless someone else is smiling. They feel sad if someone else is sad. They are "finding it hard to do anything". Barry -- that's Co-dependency, not a LOVE SONG!!

So I hope you will take this in the spirit it was written --- and for god's sake don't get angry or I'll never be happy until you're happy again.

(**for real help with co-dependency, read Melanie Beatty's "Co-dependent No More"**)