Detachment, Depletion, and Subjugation

(How’s that for a light and fluffy title?)

There’s a certain conversation I’ve had with many of the professionals involved in my daughter’s care.  She has struggles, of course.  Right now, school and studying are front and centre as we head into exam time.

While she’s extremely bright (like over 95th percentile bright in her psych ed testing) she struggles with the typical things that many people with ASD and/or ADHD struggle with- executive functioning, organization, working through things slowly and methodically, dealing with frustration when things aren’t easy.  It drives her nuts when I say this, but she really does have the potential to do so well.  She interprets this as pressure.

Thing is, she doesn’t because, at the end of the day, she really doesn’t care.  I have to cajole and humour and convince.  She resists.  Then we devolve into yelling, frustration on both ends, and when it’s really bad, tears.  The bottom line, as her psychologist Dr. B has told me so many times…is that I can’t make her care.  It will happen when she wants it to happen. She will reap both the rewards and the consequences of her actions.

Dr. B is always quick to remind me as well that she’s not just a kid with ASD,  she is a typical, defiant almost-15 year old girl and well who is wont to disagree with her parents at every possible opportunity.  Like it is for sport.  Because that’s what almost-15 year olds do.

Better to let her fail now, and understand what that means now, rather than later, Dr B tells me.  My head knows this is right.  But it goes against what I want for her as my child.  I want my child to be happy, successful, capable, fulfilled.

Then I catch myself–all those sentences up there begin with I.  It’s all about me.  This is where I wonder if I am projecting.  If I want her success to be my definition of success.  Then I think about her holding down a job, having to pay bills, meeting her basic needs–and I start to get anxious. And then between the two of us, our collective anxiety spirals up and up until one or both of us has a meltdown of some kind.  This is never pretty.

So the only thing I can realistically counsel myself to do is detach, detach, detach.  Caring while not investing my very being into it, letting her lead her own way, with positive, gentle support and guidance from me in the background.  Remembering that my job is to create a healthy environment to facilitate her own good decision making, give her the right tools–and then remembering that it is up to her at the end of it all to pick up those tools and use them.

***

Too much focus and anxiety over her well-being also has done me harm. It has been a rough two years.  Ex-h’s drama did a number on me, then realizing that he is a narcissist has totally reframed how I deal with him now, and what our relationship was about.  It took me a long time to figure out the latter, and I’m still stunned (and a bit disappointed in myself) that it took me that long to figure him out.

It is time for me to step back and engage in some serious self-care.  I’ve been good at it at various points in my life, but at some point something has always derailed me.  I can’t afford to let that happen any more.  I can’t subjugate my needs to the changing tides of others.

Tomorrow June 1, is day one.  I am going to start by doing something good for me every single day.  I don’t know what it’ll be, big or small, but I have to feel like I am enriching myself in some way.

I’m also starting a new meds tweak – my pdoc has added Wellbutrin.  She thinks it might help with my lack of energy and motivation.  I sure hope so. I am tired of being tired, always being in a rush but walking through mud at the same time.

Wish me luck, oh internets…

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Keep calm and carry on

A few days ago I got some bad news.  Nothing directly about me, but about something that has the potential to affect me financially down the road.  I used to joke about how this particular form of financial disaster might happen to me one day, but I thought I was just being funny in an edgy way.  I didn’t really think it would happen.

On Saturday I found out it did.  My ex-husband was fired.  One of the first things he said to me was “this could affect support payments.”  Not right away, but eventually.

I took a deep breath.  Every time I think he has reached some sort of nadir, he proves me wrong by sinking deeper.

Once upon a time I would get sucked into his drama. Panic when he panicked. It took me years to realize that this is the energy he draws on.  He creates drama because he needs it.  And as a narcissist, his needs always came first. They still do.

So, I didn’t challenge him on what he said.  Instead I just took it in, and said little.  I got the information I needed, and kept the phone call as short as possible.

Inside, I felt calm, but alert.  I am concerned, yes, but not panicked.  I am as resourceful as anyone out there.  More importantly, I see him for what he is. He may try to challenge me, or more likely, get me into a position of emotional vulnerability so that I let him off the hook, but I’m not biting.  His obligations remain what they have been, and I expect him to honour them.  He has the means to honour them- particularly if he stops indulging in German cars, designer clothes, and his huge collection of expensive toys.

I don’t expect him to change.  He’s a spoiled little boy in a 50-something body, no matter how much he tries to sell himself as a martyr.

The only expectations I have are on myself.  I expect myself to honour my end of the business agreement I have to raise our children.  I expect myself, always, to act in their best interest.  I expect myself to no longer enable his shitty behaviour.  I expect myself to carry on, with the good and the bad, to ride the tough times, plan as best as I can, and enjoy the moments of bliss, big and small, when they suddenly emerge.

 

Respite

The last few weeks, I’ve been feeling like the respite I get is in ever shorter, ever more fleeting chunks.  An hour here or there.  Sometimes 15 minutes. Some days it is so bad that being at work, in my understaffed, high-pressure, intense, deadline-driven job feels like respite compared to being at home.

I’m enjoying some respite right now, and if all goes well, it will continue for the next hour and 20 minutes, when I next expect the fireworks of a 14 year old teenager with Asperger’s to begin.

That’s when I’ll be removing all the electronics from her room, as promised. There is no question, she’s an addict.  And she’s going through the classical denial stage.  No one in this house has slept for the last three nights.  She has been sneaking in, or coming in loudly to my bedroom where I’ve hidden it all away.

Last night was the first parent training part of the ABA she will be getting.  The speaker talked about the importance of focusing on one task at a time, and linking it to one specific desired outcome.  I kept thinking, but she has SO many issues…where do we begin?

The one thing I was reinforced with was the need to honour my word.  The device go away at 10:00, so the devices will go away at 10:00…be it easy or be it with drama.  I have for the last two nights managed to do it on autopilot…no, go to bed.  Please go to bed.  You need to get some sleep.  And so on.

I could hear myself, being calm.  But inside I felt weary, like it would never end. Luckily, I am stubborn.  I detached.  I heard someone else saying no repeatedly, like a broken recording.

Later, telling a good friend about it, I broke down.  It is so exhausting.

Take a break, she said.  Get some respite.

I am trying, with this glass in my hand, I am trying and I will take what I can get.

Feelings

The last couple of days I think I have had some of my worst parenting moments ever.  I am doing better but I am still feeling guilty, and sad.

My girl is intense.  When she’s happy she’s HAPPY, and when she’s not, well, batten down the hatches.  Sunday came at the end of a particularly brutal week, which was brutal for reasons completely unrelated to her.  She was angry and anxious and argumentative and completely unwilling and unable to accept advice, or even just sympathy.  Even just getting away from her was futile- she seemed to have a need to rage.  Thing is, I can only be the target of such a rage for so long, and then my own rage comes out.

Anger.  Anger about not being listened to, anger about the lot in life I’ve been given, frustration that I just. can’t. make. her. happy.  Feeling put upon that I am her punching bag, her case manager, her caretaker…all rolled into one harried package.  It is not a nice feeling to resent your own child, especially when they can’t help who they are.

Or, can they?  People are a mix of what they are born with, and what they are able to do by virtue of their own free will, decision-making, or whatever you want to call it.  I vacillate between thinking, none of this is her fault, she is what she is…and then…DAMMIT STOP BEING SO OBSTINATE?  Her psychologist said, you can’t always blame Asperger’s.  Remember that she is also just a typical 14 year old girl with typical 14 year old issues.

As difficult as yesterday was, we made some good progress.  We dealt with one source of her recent anxiety:  drama class.  She switched into a tech class as one of her electives instead.  Drama had far too much group work, and she was constantly being reminded that she doesn’t fit it.  Kids would be told to get into pairs, or groups, and they naturally go with their friends.  Thing is, this girl doesn’t have friends.  In tech class there isn’t much group work, and given how into computers she is anyways…it is probably a better fit interest-wise as well.

She also started her PEERS group program.  Last night was the first session, and so far so good.  As far as I go, it is great to meet a group of parents who know exactly what I mean when I describe how my girl will talk and talk and talk and talk in conversations but not show any interest in how the other person in doing.

I also sent her new teachers a Girl 101 email.  I let them know about her IEP, her quirks, how she is doing, her addiction to her iPhone, etc.  I want them to feel like they have an open line with me, and knowing about her ASD will help them understand why she is the way she is, and how they can help her and their ability to teach her at the same time.

Onwards and upwards.  I am grateful it is a short week.  I am grateful that I remembered to take steak out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner.  I am grateful that her brother is such a good kid.  And am grateful that my Girl is upstairs right now, laughing and relaxing and in a much better place than she was 48 hours ago.

 

 

Parenting fail

Two weeks into working full-time, I blew a gasket.

I had a long, wailing meltdown like a 3-year old.  It was awful.  I was angry, tired, stressed, frustrated and probably a whole lot of other things.  Now I feel mostly guilty.

I should have seen it coming.  The kids came back to me Friday evening, as they always do after a week with their dad.  I was exhausted.  We had a simple dinner of pasta, watched a bit of TV, me drinking a little too much wine into the wee hours.  The kids retreated to their devices in the preferred corners of the house, I went to bed and futzed around on the internet doing nothing in particular for way too long.

Yesterday, I started the day badly by sleeping in way too late.  I did some badly needed housework and my mood perked up.  We went out to the thrift store to source some Halloween stuff and spent way too much time poking around.  Rushed home to get the kids dinner before I went out to a work function that I really didn’t want to go to.  I felt pudgy, and like the outfit I put together was Not Quite Right.  It was an overpriced hipster vegan place that I resented spending $75 at.  I couldn’t wait to go home, and I was able to make a reasonably early 9:00 escape, only to come home and be unproductive.

Which meant today was doomed to be one big gong show of housework and putting together an IKEA desk that I fucked up with somewhere along the way and will have to disassemble and do again (thank you, undiagnosed visual-spatial LD).  I regretted agreeing to go see Gone Girl as I had way too much to do, but I felt like I couldn’t bail.  Besides, wasn’t I entitled to a little bit of fun?  I’d been wanting to see it as I had just finished the book, and I was not disappointed.

Then rushed off to meet another friend and her son for a birthday dinner out.  She picked up my kids for me and we all met at the restaurant.  My daughter was pushing my buttons – playing with her phone the whole time until I made her put it away, only to see her sneaking it under the table.  I understand her Aspie-ness, yet it is incredibly frustrating to watch her ignore people around her who actually WANT to talk to her.

Dropped the kids off at home, almost 9:00 pm at this point, only to realize I needed stuff for their lunches.  Off to the store I went.  Fastest grocery shop ever, and I come home to have the son tell me he forgot his backpack (with- guess what?  HOMEWORK!) at his dad’s.  Off to his dad’s we went, me fuming not so quietly and slipping deeper into pity party territory.  He was careful, saying as little as possible.

9:45, we are back home.  The daughter casually mentions how much she loves her online friends.  I reply something to the effect of, that’s great, but you need to carve out time for other things too, like homework.  You wonder why you don’t have real friends?  You shut them out with your phone, your laptop.  You ignore them.

It all kind of exploded from there.

I am so not proud of myself.  I went into my room, and just wailed, for, I don’t know how long.  I felt like a failure as a mother.  Like an all-round shitty person.

I did what I always do when this happens, which is, fortunately, rarely.  I apologized, I made sure I told them that I loved them.  I told them that it is not right that when I am overwhelmed I lose it like that.  That when I am tired, and feeling burdened, I need to find better ways to deal with it.  And again, that I loved them, no matter what, that I get so frustrated because all I am trying to do is make it all right for them.

They are so loving, so forgiving.

I hope I can forgive myself now.

Day One

Today was my first official day of being a full-time working single mom. Full-time in the 9 to 5 work sense.  I have my kids every second week these days.

The first four years, when I was finding my sea legs no longer being married, I had them 80% of the time. It was best this way as my kids were in the house they’d always know.  My ex had left me (in an awful, epic way that I will one day write about) and moved out, and I was hell-bent on keeping things as stable as possible for the kids while their dad had his midlife crisis.

Once I stopped crying (and it wasn’t long) I started making my new life.  I went back to school and made a career shift.  I started working part-time while I was in school.  There was no way I could work full-time while having the kids 80% of the time, not with one of them having special needs.  (Yes, I know, there are parents who do this because they have to- I’m just saying I didn’t have to so I didn’t.)

Recently though I got the opportunity to up my hours at work to full-time and I went for it.  If not now, then when?

Anyhow, today is day one of that gig.  I wish I could say it was easy, but if anything it was a bit of a gong show.

First off, I wake up late (fuck you, Seroquel).  I forget to give the girl her ADHD meds.  On the way to school I realize this but she doesn’t want me to go back home because then she’d be late.  I get to work, start training this new woman and I get a phone call from my lawyer.  We had an appointment, and I’d forgotten to put it in my calendar.  Fuck!  I have to leave work early to take the girl to the doctor.  She tells me she feels no different not being on her meds (she’s told me this a few times).  Discuss with dr, who suggests we go off of it for awhile to see what happens, fingers crossed.

I come home, the house is a disaster.  What I really want to do is have a glass of wine on the porch to unwind, but I am going to try my best to drop the weight I have gained since being depressed/going on Seroquel (again, fuck you Seroquel).  I instead pour myself a grapefruit Perrier on ice – a healthy choice, go me!  And I sit and purge my brains out here for half an hour before embarking on the dinner/homework/chores journey for the day.

Four more days. Four.

Cut me some slack, universe…

I went in to work today feeling weary.  Sorry for myself.  Like, sweet Jesus, can the universe not cut me a break?  

After about a week of mulling over the girl’s new label, I started to feel okay with it.  Like, it is just another convenient descriptor of her, like brown-haired, or creative, or tall.  And she was really seeming ok with things, even lightheartedly calling herself an Aspie at one point.  

They went off to their dad’s on Friday afternoon, the way it always goes.  Routine clockwork.  I was settling into a quiet weekend with G, who was working doggedly on the home stretch of report cards.  I cooked, puttered, went shopping with an old friend Saturday afternoon.  Weekend stuff.

Then, on Sunday afternoon I got a call from xh.  The girl had been apprehended by security at the grocery store.  She’d lifted some makeup.  Could I come and pick up her brother and take him home while he dealt with it?  

My head spun.  OMFG.  SHOPLIFTING?!!???  I quietly freaked out and then raced to the store.  Gave the boy the key to the house and told him to go let himself in.  There was no way I could not be at the store, with her.  Xh wasn’t exactly full of details over the phone. He didn’t know what was going to happen.  They were waiting for the police to arrive.

I kept thinking…she is only 13.  She has ADHD and Asperger’s.  Could this be because of that? Could she have done this on purpose?  Was there an impulsivity thing happening?  We’ve never known her to steal…not from us, not from anyone else.  I was in utter shock.  I started to quietly panic.  This could really affect her future.  Did she even understand what she had done, what this could mean?

I was reeling.

They waited in the little security room at the store, behind an unmarked door.  She was scrunched up, her knees tucked close to her chest.  She was weeping.  I sat next to her and hugged her.  Asked her, in a whispering voice, what had happened.  She said she’d been intending to ask her dad, who was shopping elsewhere in the store, if he would buy these things.  And then she forgot.  

She started to weep louder.  She said that her dad was furious.  She worried that he’d never treat her the same.  He just sat in the corner, glaring at nothing in particular.

I tried to make sense of it all.  

The one thing I could ascertain was that she was scared out of her skin.  I asked her if she understood that what she’d done was wrong, and she said she did.  She said she’d never, ever do anything like that again.

I closed my eyes and prayed for that, in silence.  I’m still praying.  

After about an hour, a police officer showed up.  He asked her to explain what had happened.  He asked her to explain the consequences of what she’d done.  She did.  

And fortunately, he let her off with a warning.  She was thankful.  Very thankful.  We all were.  

Xh thinks she is going to remember this, and learn from it.  I sure fucking hope so.  I can’t bear the alternative.  

***

I am so tired.  Weary.  I said that before, didn’t I?

I look back over the last year and a bit and I can’t believe everything that has happened in my world.  Xh nearly got himself killed.  His assailant (or who the fuck knows) harassing us, under the safe cloak of an anonymous proxy server (I hate you, internet).  My mother’s dementia.  My old acquaintances, anxiety and depression, coming back for yet another visit.  Asperger’s.  

Yes, there have been good things too.  My amazing, supportive man, G.  A stable (even if the pay sucks) job with benefits.  Great, awesome girlfriends.  

I just want a little break, universe.  A break so that I can heal and deal with these challenges that have fallen my way.  

***

It is almost funny, that I’ve stopped thinking about my mood ever since all this stuff came down with my girl.  Oh, my mood is still there. I feel just down.  Sad.  Weary.  Tired.  I have stopped checking the calendar to see how many weeks it has been since my meds were increased.  Stopped looking for anecdotal evidence online that sure enough, this will do the trick.  I go back to the psychiatrist in two weeks.  I do my CBT homework.  I try to stay on top of the usual things of life.  I watch Dexter or Homeland or Breaking Bad in the evenings and I try to get out of my head a bit.  It helps.  

But when will life feel joyful again?  When will I be happy to get out of bed in the morning, rather than grateful at 8 p.m. that the day is coming to an end?