Category Archives: abuse

My Challenge: Mardra


I would like to introduce you to Madrathe mother of a wonderful man who has Down Syndrome. I believe every parent of a child with special needs has the same challenge. 

My Challenge: I am afraid of monsters.

As long as I can remember, I have known that a monster is not the lifelike replication of a furry puppet. I’ve also never really been afraid of Frankenstein or Dracula style monsters, fantasies that were created to emulate the human condition, but in and of themselves began as a figment of a writer’s imagination. 

No, as a young girl and still today my fear of monsters is much more palpable, cynical and real.The opportunity to see and read stories of the monsters that walk among us are everywhere and every day. 

The news is filled with them.  One example that recently crushed me involved high school boys acting monstrously towards two of their innocent and more vulnerable peers. My stomach turns now and hollows; my heart pains as it beats living with the long minutes of rape, exploitation, jeering and confusion. I type through the tears for the parents of the victims, the anger they must feel, the shame, the fear…

I scold myself. I shouldn’t have read the article. The headline told me all I didn’t want to hear or believe. 

What am I supposed to do with these images, at once swimming among and drowning my own thoughts? This being one of the many examples of monsters that look like normal human beings, living among us. And they are everywhere. Both in power and searching for power. On the streets and online. In my imagination and in real life. They have always been and always will be.

For the first 21 years of my son’s life, we lived in our own shell. I went to work and home and kept a close circle of friends. Marcus went to a private school where I felt he was most safe while learning and growing. From the first days of his life I feared that his facial features would make him easily preyed upon; I felt compelled to focus on preventing the possibility of any ill-intentioned creatures causing him harm.

The word overprotective has been lobbed in my direction and that too carries its own weight of parental guilt and consequences.

Less than two years ago I decided to put in a window to our closed off life. I finally embraced the 21st century and Marcus and I claimed our own little corner of the World Wide Web. We launched Grown Ups and Downs, with much thought, trepidation, and coffee.

So far, we are a very small clan and don’t attract much attention from monsters. But I know they are there. And, that is part of why we are there, too.  A song I often refer to for courage is “Hands” by Jewel: For light does the darkness most fear.



I don’t have a great arsenal of defenses against potential monsters. I don’t have a superhero shield or a sword of steel. All I have are two things: language and love. Marcus inspires me every day by sharing his stories and his humor. He gives me his love unconditionally and he accepts me when I am curled up and hiding under the blankets. He reminds me when I rant that, “No one is perfect, Mom.”

Monsters feed themselves lies and vomit it upon others. Monsters are even afraid of other monsters, which is why they huddle in packs, and commonly use whatever means available to dull their human senses.

The days when fear pulls on my shirttail and coaxes me to hide, Marcus shows me how his light can shine and warm others who may also be afraid. He tells me dreams the monsters could not believe, and we climb towards those dreams.

I know the monsters’ presence will grow with us and there are days they strike. There will continue to be days the when monsters touch both those I do and do not know and leave me bruised and shaken in their wake as well.

I do not foresee a day when I won’t be afraid of monsters. And monsters, true monsters, will not be changed.

But others, those who are looking for kindness, reasons for optimism and good news. Those who are looking to learn and have opened their minds to a spectrum of human possibility, it is for them that Marcus’ light shines the truths of love and life’s potential. His enthusiasm and ambitions take a little bit of power and energy from the darkness monsters feed upon: ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding. It is with Marcus by my side that we aim to show from our little corner of the world a life of innocence, of ambitions, of love, and try to shine brighter yet these things into the world. These are the only weapons we have and we wield them with hope.
In the end, only kindness matters…
 

Marcus and his mom Mardra

***************** 

When Mardra sent me her Challenge I immediately thought of Robert Sayler. Then the horrific parody of the ALS Challenge was done to a young autistic man. Yes, cruelty happens, but when your child is unable to communicate, when their very being is something that can be preyed upon you live with another fear. I send Abby to school every day knowing she could be bullied, targeted and hurt. Yet I know I have provided the tools she needs to alert myself, her father or a trusted adult to keep her as safe as possible. David teachers her self-defense and drills into her the need to be aware of her surroundings. Yet, I know with all the tools we give her a Sandy Hook, a 9/11 or a Boston Marathon could happen. Or worse.


With Boo the fears are different. Boo cannot tell me what happened. For example last week she fell and scuffed her knee. She told me her therapist at school “pushed slide”. I knew that probably didn’t happen. When I asked her therapist the next morning, I said Boo said you pushed her off the slide. David was there and said no, I was walking her to the car and she tripped! We all had a chuckle over it. Boo bruises easily, she is always getting a bump or scratch. Recently she had one on her back. It turns out Abby dropped her. No biggie, but reading Mardra’s challenge reminds me that some day it might be. That Boo needs the language because one day it could be her that some high school bully pranks with a bucket of feces. Or worse. If you have time, check out Mardra’s article on the Huffington Post. It’s not just the monsters out there, it’s the people who say our children need to be hidden. 

You can find Mardra and Marcus on the Grown Ups and Downs Blog, Facebook & Twitter.

What's your challenge is a series that was inspired by a program I created at Abby's school. I am amazed at how honest and hopeful the challenges have been. Thank you to all who have contributed. To submit your challenge, please e-mail me at firebailey@gmail.com

You are not alone

A year ago, Kelli Stapeleton failed to kill herself and her daughter. Issy recovered from her injuries and Kelli went to jail awaiting trial. Yesterday it is reported she plead guilty. Before you judge her and her situation, I ask that you read today’s Throw Back Thursday Post: Remember the Parent. Remember to offer to help before you offer to judge. Talk to that woman in the elevator. Offer support, a shoulder or empathy before offering judgement of a life you know nothing about. 

More importantly to the mom who is facing a situation like Kelli, remember you are not alone. I’m here. I’m listening. Reach out now before it is too late. There are ways to get your village of support. There are people who understand. If you are desperate, know that you are not alone. You just have to call. You might not think so, you might be in such a dark place that you think you are alone that no one understands. You are wrong, so wrong.

The Good Smaratians  1-877-870-4673 or the National Suicide Prevention  24/7 hotline for assistance: 1-877-273-TALK Or please utilize the Autism Speaks Crisis Intervention to find more avenues of support. 

Or contact me, Kerri at firebailey@gmail.com  I might not be able to help but I can listen. I can be there. I can help you find support.

Just know that you are not alone.

The post below was originally posted 23-SEP-2013

I’ve been really hesitant to write this post. First, I hate to jump on a bandwagon. I also hate being late to a party, even a pity one. Mostly, though, I do not ever want to come across as ungrateful or one that complains.

Truthfully, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I am beyond lucky. I acknowledge that my situation is as wonderful as it is rare. I have a terrific village who supports my sanity. When life gets overwhelming I have some one within a text, an e-mail, a call or a walk to lean on. I get date nights with my husband and girls night in.

Not everyone is this lucky. They are isolated. They stay at home with their child, change how they go to Worship, do not attend family events, cannot find a babysitter and not even think about getting a pedicure. Moms like Kelli try to do everything right. They think that it is less disruptive for their child to stay home. They feel family gatherings are too hard to keep everything together and peaceful.

I do not know Kelli and only know about her circumstance from JulieJill and Kristi’s blogs. But I do know that not every child is like Boo. Some children with special needs are violent. They hurt themselves and those who love them the most.

When Kelli tried to kill herself and her daughter there was a lot of condemnation.  People have a difficult time understanding suicide. Let alone a mom who tries to harm her child.

The sad truth is, Kelli is not the only one out there. Statistically children in the US with special needs account for almost 10% of those who are abused. And they are abused by their caregivers. This is not just the US. World-wide disabled children are harmed more often than typical.

This is just supposition on my part, but I believe the abuse and the killings and the suicides happen because the parent has little or no support. We are very lucky where we live. Our Boo has a terrific school, after school therapies and other support. But those therapists and teachers deal with our children hitting, spitting and hurting them. Yet they love our kids. They want our children to succeed.

Parents and caregivers are becoming the walking wounded, suffering from post-traumatic stress of living and working with a child who punches, kicks, sets fire to the house and destroys relationships. We love our children. We hate what their disability makes them do.

There is a difference.

There is also a reason why persons who work with children and adults with special needs have an extremely high burnout rate.

While our children in the US have a tremendous amount of government support available (if you know where to ask) for them, there is zero support for the caregiver. I am not talking about financial. I am talking about emotional support. That shoulder that you need to lean on.

Since I have that support I know full well what those of you without it must be feeling. Know that you are not alone but you have to let us know you need it. My friends know because I go to them. I break with Boo’s therapists and vent to her aides. Sure a few will reach out, but the responsibility is mine to say I cannot do it on my own.

So I implore you, the Kelli’s out there, to know you are not alone. But you need to scream and raise the white flag.

And if you know a parent out there with a child who has special needs reach out. Stop by their house tonight with a pizza and a bottle of wine. Stop by and check in on them. Keep inviting them to events, even if they have to say no. Remember that e-mail is great, but you can hide there. Call, speak to them. Make sure they know you are available to listen without judgment.

Let what happened to Kelli be a lesson to all of us to reach out before there is no one there to catch.


My Challenge — Lizzi

Today I would like to introduce Lizzi the author of Considerings where she actively tries to find the good in life. A blog that is sometimes fiction so good you think it is true, some days full of humor and some days despair. It’s a wonderful mix of writing and feelings. No matter what Lizzi faces each week she is determined to end on a high note with her Ten Things of Thankful post. A wrap up each Saturday where she sees the light in all of her clouds.


My Challenge: Despair



Several hours ago:

My challenge right this second, as I write this in an empty house steeped in melancholy and shattered expectations, is not to go to the cupboard in the kitchen and fetch down that shining bottle from the top shelf.

My challenge is to convince myself that it’s a sufficiently slippery path to prove deterrent – that taking the edge off with alcohol isn’t the answer. At the moment the only thing holding me back is the knowledge that I’ll regret the number of calories it contains. Ah serendipity, thou art disguised within even the soft and pudgy linings of low self-image.
My picture speaks for itself, but it doesn’t say how interconnected so many of those things are. It doesn’t tell of the (thus far) unbreakable bonds between an abusive childhood and my inability to disconnect and stop assuming responsibility (or blame) for aspects of my current situation. Or those between spousal illness and miscarriage. And infertility. And rejection, leading to further low self-esteem. And depression, which is riddling our relationship like woodworm, gnawing away at the things we thought we held dear, and now call into question, time and time again because “what if we hadn’t…”

It’s harder after the high of such a wonderful, fleeting day, where a bloggy friend and I met in person for the first time. We stood in glorious sunshine on the beach and let the warm ocean bathe our feet as we talked and talked. And later we went for cocktails and gelato and things were wonderful. And now she’s gone.

And it’s harder because the day before that (my fourth anniversary) I lay crying, once again rejected (because his illness allows him no other option), utterly desolate and we discussed whether or not our marriage would last. Because we ‘clinked’ our fries together in the restaurant in a desperate show of silliness and recognition of the occasion as tears bathed my cheeks and his eyes turned to pools of despair. Because we had cocktails and got buzzed and all that went away for a while, and with the corners of the situation tamed by tipsiness, we hugged and laughed and the shit went away for a while.
And it’s hard because I have to find a silver lining and even though the sun is up and Maslow would be convinced I should be content, at least, I really, really, really want that drink.

Now:

Writing is cathartic anyway, but particularly from a place of hurt and desperation, because it forces some of the challenges to come into stark clarity, their contrast perhaps shocking, as I lift them out of the tangled mire of mind, determined to examine them in the light of day and describe their form.

In writing this, I was able to trace those unbreakable strings which bind me so tight. And having traced them, I was able to explain them to Husby, who *listened* and cried with me as he realised the extent to which his illness and my smorgasboard of challenges crash headlong into one another, leaving us both trainwrecked and licking our wounds.
I reached out, not for a bottle in the end, but for a friend, who was in the right place at the right time to talk me down and just hear me, and make me feel less alone.
The aloneness is hardest, especially when part of what’s trapping you is your own mind, your own thought patterns and your destructive, determinedly negative perspectives. In point of fact, the (seemingly relentless) shitstorm of life is one of the main reasons I’m part of a new blogging initiative – the SisterWives (http://www.sisterwivesspeak.com) – a group of writer friends whose collective history reads like a manual for surviving almost every kind of crap that life can throw at a person. We are damaged goods, but determined to live life in Silver Linings, and *somehow* turn our hurts to helps. We don’t want others to feel alone. We want to find strength in being vulnerable and honest and sharing our truths in the hopes that they’ll somehow be useful to Someone Out There.

Our motto, (the former part I struggle with, but am trying to take on board): Alone we are enough; Together we are stronger.

Thank you, Lizzi for your honesty with your challenge. All of us find moments of despair. When it gets too much. When you wonder if that shiny bottle will dull the pain. Trust me, it just makes you puke if used for that purpose. There are so many challenges interlinked, as Lizzi has shown. But there is support out there for just about anything you are facing. This virtual world is sometimes all you need to realize you are not alone. I’m glad she still sees the hope in all the clouds.

What's your challenge is a series that was inspired by a program I created at Abby's school. I am amazed at how honest and hopeful the challenges have been. Thank you to all who have contributed. To submit your challenge, please e-mail me at firebailey@gmail.com