Category Archives: anxiety

When hope is all you have

I received a text from Bridget’s teacher the other day. She was asking if something happened at home she should be aware. Bridget had been crying off and on all morning. They had never experienced this behavior before.

My first instinct was to respond welcome to my life. Continue reading

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: Laura

Today’s challenge comes from a fellow warrior mom: Laura. Her son is gorgeous. Like a mini-Elvis gorgeous. You know before he got old. Laura is an incredible photographer, gorgeous inside and out. Her smile lights up a room. Like many of us, she has a challenge that I am so thankful she is willing to share. 


My Challenge : Undiagnosed Postpartum depression.






My challenge is a common one. One that crops up among new moms
everywhere. But many of us who experience it are completely unprepared. Sure,
we all read the books. We spend months agonizing over what colors we should
paint our nurseries. Should we nurse or bottle-feed? What kind of diapers
should be buy? Moby wrap or Ergo Carrier? There’s a thousand decisions to make
concerning BABY when getting ready to have a child. But a little known thing
happens to us once that baby comes out.. Our hormones go haywire. And
sometimes, they stay that way. It’s shocking and unexpected. I say it’s
unexpected because “THEY” don’t warn us. “THEY” meaning the baby experts. There
is a 500+ page book on all of our bookshelves talking about every detail to
expect when you’re expecting - but the chapter on the postpartum baby blues
isn’t given any real fanfare. And, well, maybe it should.




Like most moms in their last trimester, I was anxious for my baby
to come early. I really wanted to deliver somewhere around the 38 week mark.
That didn’t happen. 41 weeks and then some, I was induced. 24 hours later, we
were talking c-section. So, right from the start nothing was going as planned.
I was fine with that knowing soon I’d have my little boy in my arms. I cried
the next 4 days in the hospital. The nurses assured me it was normal to be a
little ‘weepy’. But I was totally confused.. This was such a joyous event and I
was full of anxiety and was on the verge of a meltdown anytime someone new
walked into my room.. I stuffed it down - not wanting to appear weak. I got
this. I can handle motherhood. Whatever this emotional shit is, it’s gonna have
to take a hike.




We went home.. The crying continued. I looked at my husband
sleeping soundly next to me as I had a 6 day old infant attached to me. I
quietly thought to myself, “What if I just returned him to those nurses... They
know so much more about how to handle this.. We are completely unprepared” and
I cried some more. 




I went to my follow up OB appointment. She asked me how I was
feeling. It was the first time anyone asked me that.. I choked back the hard
lump of tears that was still so readily available and said, “I’m ok. I cry a
little. But I’m ok”.. It was a lie. I was a mess. But I was terrified. The
crazy hormones in me made me believe if I showed her I was weak, she would take
this baby away from me. And I wasn’t very much in love with motherhood yet, but
I didn’t want to be fired from it just yet.




The days turned into a blur. I started to walk outside. I found my
way to a nursing support group and that helped a ton. But every night the
anxiety would return. Was this really for us? Did we make the right decision?
Yes, of course we did. But I would obsess over whether I could do a good-enough
job. All these other mothers around me all seemed to have it soo together. It
just seemed an insurmountable task to be a good mother.. 




Somehow - we made it through the first year. And then another. I
casually accepted my emotional status as just ‘a mom in love with her kid’. It
wasn’t that. I had postpartum depression. Big time. I never was formally
diagnosed because I never admitted it to anyone but myself. 




Being in a baby group has it’s advantages in that you can watch
your child’s development alongside other children their age. For us, this was
another trigger for my depression.. My son was no where near where these other
children were in every area of development. It was no surprise when he was
diagnosed with autism at age 2.5 . But those waves of anxiety were flooding
back. Except this time, my son was really relying on me to keep it together so
we both could get the help we needed. 




In my frenzy of setting up a list of therapy appointments for him,
I found myself a therapist whom I still see today. And a girlfriend introduced
me to the world of essential oils (which I originally passed off as hippie
juice for a while - but I’ve since turned the corner and am now addicted). I
can self-manage the anxiety when it hits hard. My down-swing periods are not
nearly as frequent and I recognize them when they’re coming. 




Postpartum
depression is a very real thing. It’s not a fun part of preparing for a baby,
so, nobody really gives it a good discussion. But it’s worth reading that
chapter in the book. And to be honest with your doctors about how you feel
afterward. I may not have been prepared for what came following my son’s birth,
but I know now that I can overcome some serious stuff. 




And that’s a beautiful realization. 




******************************

Isn't she wicked awesome? For those not from New England there is no higher compliment. I am so happy to know Laura and to have her be open and honest about her challenge. Approximately 15% of women suffer from postpartum depression. That is ONE in every SEVEN women. With that statistic you probably know at least one fellow mom who need your help. I am very grateful Laura found her village. 


I am proud to call her friend, thank you Laura.


For more information about postpartum depression see your doctor as soon as possible. Help is available, even answers if you feel concerned about yourself or your child. There is also an enormous amount of information available online. It is most important to remember: you are not alone, you have done nothing wrong and you should never feel ashamed. Please visit Postpartum Progress for more resources.



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

My Challenge: Missy

It is my pleasure to introduce my friend Missy. Missy is a true warrior mom. She coaches, brings her daughter to cheer leading, gymnastics and any event featuring Sofia the First. In addition to keeping her princess happy, Missy has two sons that keep her on her toes with (pick any sport) practice.

Missy’s challenge? Anxiety


Truthfully her challenge should be that she is a Peyton Manning fan, but we are friends anyway. Missy doesn’t let anxiety stop her from being awesome at her job, working with children like Boo every day. She channels her anxiety into showing her charges that just because they have more challenges than most, with hard work and dedication they can defy expectations.


Anxiety is tough. It is a silent challenge. One that many are afraid to share for fear of misjudgment. Yet an estimated 40 MILLION Americans are challenged with a form of anxiety. Sadly, only one-third is estimated to seek assistance. Thank you, Missy for sharing your Challenge. I am especially thankful for the care you show Boo every day. For more information and resources on anxiety please visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

What’s your challenge is a series that was inspired by a program I created at Abby’s school. To submit your challenge, please e-mail me at firebailey@gmail.com