Tag Archives: anxiety

Off Road Parenting-Because Kids Don’t Come with a GPS

Standard
Off Road Parenting-Because Kids Don’t Come with a GPS

evan4Parenting is a journey, of sorts. The moment I would see those fuzzy distorted mugs in the ultrasound pictures, the hopes and dreams of the little underdeveloped gummy bear would begin. Dreams of future scholars, athletes, musicians, or humanitarians begin to unfold. I always dreamt big when my children were in utero. God always had something special planned for dealing with the preconceived notions I had of the children I had not yet met as well as my aptitude for being a mother. In both cases, I have a feeling that my higher power was laughing to himself, because what I believed and what I found to be true were two entirely different things. Parenting my girls has been, at times, challenging. However, parenting my son, Evan, has been exhausting.

He was born early in the morning the day after our first anniversary and he was 8 pounds and 2 ounces of adorableness. His appetite was monstrous and it hasn’t really slowed down much over the last 18 years. As an infant, he was golden. He evan3slept well, ate better and was content the majority of the time. The closer he got to being a year old, the more something seemed amiss with my boy. When he was 10 months old I attended a Pampered Chef with Evan in tow. There were several women packed into a small living room and they were fawning over him and squeezing his irresistible chubby cheeks. Evan began to hyperventilate, gasping for air and wheezing. I rushed him outside into the cool night air and he immediately calmed down and began to breathe normally. When I tried to rejoin the party, he began to breathe rapidly and wheeze with every breath. I was sure my baby had asthma. My baby didn’t have asthma. I didn’t know it at the time, but when Evan was 10 months old, he had his first of many panic attacks.

I had heard of anxiety, but I was completely unaware the debilitating capacity it could have on its victims. There was a tremendous lack of understanding on my (and Kevin’s) part about dealing with a young child with an acute anxiety disorder. We struggled, we faltered, and finally we accepted.

The Struggle:

We wanted him to be like all the other kids. Other kids were busy doing kid things. They were laughing, playing sports, going to school, and doing so without any apprehension. Anything outside of his immediate comfort zone (home) produced a evan6visceral reaction that left him crying, shaking, heart racing, and sick to his stomach. There wasn’t any amount of reassurance we could offer him that would ease his distress. We coaxed, begged and made promises of great reward if he would just “TRY”. If only we had known how hard he was trying.

There has been a long history of trial and error with medications, behavior modification and various attempts of discipline. It is a strenuous plight attempting to fit a square peg into a world of round holes. Regretfully, in doing so, I failed to recognize all the uniquely wonderful attributes of my handsome square peg.

There was a time when I thought we would lose him. His battle with anxiety and depression left us standing in the gap when he wasn’t sure he could make it through the dark valley. I have no way to know the battles that have waged in his soul; I just know I am so very thankful he chose to fight.

The Sometimes

Sometimes, I am accused of letting Evan’s struggle cloud my decisions regarding what is best for him. I have been accused of spoiling him, letting him get away with things I shouldn’t and not being tougher on him. I take complete responsibility for living up to most of these accusations. As evan1a parent trying to discern how hard to push a child who has been so close to the edge, I feel that the judgments of others standing in anyone’s shoes other than mine are simply a reflection of good intentions. I can tell you honestly, that even the best intentions don’t stick when they are thrown at a situation from any distance. In order to get things to stick, you wade out into the muck of the matter.

Sometimes, I want to choke him. He can be a real handful and this has nothing to do with his anxiety or depression. He has broken my heart and disappointed me time and again. His tendency to find shortcuts, expend zero effort and completely leave his gifts and talents unutilized in any conventional sense are things which have caused me many sleepless nights. In those ways, he is a lot like his mother.

The Seasons

evan2Today Evan graduated from high school. There were many days I didn’t think I would see him standing on that stage, accepting his diploma. I have seen this young man through the many seasons of life and now he is standing on the cusp between being a child of progress and a man of promise.   I know the depth of his intelligence and the strength he is capable of harnessing.   I pray that when he looks inside himself that he will recognize the man God created him to be and the courage to see the design through to completion.

Although we have walked through seasons of storms, there is no question the absolute sunshine Evan has brought to my life. His brilliant wit, imagination, and the ability to charm the pants off a rattlesnake have been a vital heartbeat in our lives.   Kids don’t come with GPS and Evan has often been an off-road adventure, but I haven’t regretted one minute of the trip.

To My Son:

  • May you always know you are loved.
  • Happiness is never found in things…true happiness is in the moments we share with one another.evan8
  • Invest your time and love in others, it pays unbelievable dividends.
  • Be quick to forgive.
  • Continue to be kind to those less fortunate.
  • Real men cry, kiss babies, change diapers, open doors for ladies, love Jesus, and hug their moms in public.
  • Always admit when you have made a mistake. Accountability is part of being human and so is making mistakes.
  • Don’t let the world define you.
  • Keep your promises. A man is only as good as his word.
  • Work hard and always give any task your best self.
  • Play hard.
  • Be kind.
  • Look for the positive in every situation and cling to it.
  • Always know that I am so thankful that God gave me a son and that son is you.

All My Love-MOM

 

Faking Fortitude-Confessions of One Lacking

Standard
Faking Fortitude-Confessions of One Lacking

Reflecting on the last 18 months still causes the smoldering ulcer in the pit of my belly to spark and burn. It is that familiar gut-fire that keeps me moving forward, looking forward, and thinking forward. The internal belly blister is proof that ingesting one’s troubles and making meal after meal of worry and frustration will, in fact, eat a whole in the lining of your alimentary canal. Belly Fire, as I affectionately refer to my nocturnal internal sizzle, is something to which I have become accustomed and has become fast friends with my insomnia. I appreciate the ability to carry my ball of flammable burdens sight unseen, which is why seeing them displayed on the wall of my niece’s school was much like dreaming I was in public without my pants.

Walking into the gym to pick up my niece from her small Catholic school, she informs me that there is a picture of me hanging in the hall and pulls me in the direction of the classrooms. Along the way, she tells me that, Lilly, her older sister had written about me and the paper was hanging on the wall in the hallway outside of her classroom. Sure enough, there was Lilly’s completed assignment with my name in bold type and a picture of me with a giant arrow pointing to my head. Strangely enough, it was entitled “FORTITUDE”. The following is the text from Lilly’s interpretation of my recent struggles:

My aunt, Karri Thurman had courage when she had to lose her house. Her husband lost his job. They were given a house by her husband’s aunt and uncle, but it was torn up and outdated. She had to work her job at the nursing home and finish her home before she had to move. The house was small and they barely fit. Her three kids (13, 16, and 21) had to help. Then her son had anxiety attacks and was constantly at the hospital. She never lost courage and hope when I would have.

Lilly's Assignment

Lilly’s Assignment

Wow. There is nothing like hanging your dirty laundry on the wall of the Catholic Church, especially when it is the heart-felt version of a ten-year-old. Adding insult to injury, not only am I the aunt with a plethora of problems, I also am the aunt who is of the mysterious ‘public protestant school’ variety as opposed to their familiar Catholic private school experience. While I stood reading this snapshot of my life, I couldn’t help to think about what facts the casual reader would probably deduct from this information:

  • I didn’t pay my bills and lost my house to foreclosure
  • My husband couldn’t keep a job
  • We were given a one-room dilapidated shanty in which to live
  • We forced our kids to hours of hard labor
  • My son has been hospitalized numerous times with exacerbations of mental illness
  • My life is so horrendous that the fact that I can still face each day is a feat worthy of admiration

What can I say? Lilly’s version of this last year and a half is accurate, for the most part. There are, however, some details that would have probably helped the reader clarify the events more accurately. I might not have looked quite so much the ‘poor public protestant pariah’ had she included some of the following information:

My husband has been gainfully employed his entire adult life, but was laid off from his job in June 2011. Losing well over 50% of our income, our lives did change abruptly and drastically. We juggled and struggled in an attempt to stay in our large newer five-bedroom house. Nearly a year passed and we had exhausted our resources, retirement funds, etc. and we made the decision to lease out our house and to move into something smaller. Blessed beyond belief, Kevin’s Aunt and Uncle graciously offered up his Grandpa’s house on the farm for our family. It had stood empty since Grandpa’s passing the previous year. While Grandpa’s house is a great deal smaller than what we had been accustomed, it was more than sufficient for our needs. A brick ranch home, with two bathrooms, three bedrooms and a basement, we made it work just fine.

With just a few weeks until our renters moved into our house, we embarked on a round the clock do-it-yourself project at Grandpa’s farm. It required all hands on deck as we redid floors and cabinets, knocked down and rebuilt walls, and painted (lots of painting). The kids did help and so did friends and family. Blood, sweat, tears, and the little money we had all went into transforming this empty house into our home. Unlike Lilly’s version, no young children were harmed or exploited during the rehab project.

The Three Poor Kids that Barely Fit

The Three Poor Kids that Barely Fit

That brings us to the part of Lilly’s story, which I consider to be the biggest challenge to my fortitude and that is my son’s struggle with anxiety. Since he was a toddler, anxiety has been Evan’s tormentor. It has stifled nearly every aspect of his life. Its presence and severity have waxed and waned over his lifetime on a course no one can predict or prevent. Shortly after our move to the farm, anxiety reared its ugly head and did so with a vengeance and he brought his buddy, ‘depression’. The loss of a job, a house, and a way of life pales pitifully to watching my only son being engulfed by a darkness I cannot see; held captive by shackles to which I have no keys. Nothing fuels my belly fire like the uncertainty of whether my child will be able to pull out of this nosedive before he crashes full-force into the very world in which he cannot find comfort.

As parents, Kevin and I reached out for any resources we could find to help us to help our boy. As we consulted doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, we scrambled to help Evan find his way to the surface in the anxiety and sadness which were drowning him. We searched his sad eyes for any sign of the sparkle that reflects his spirit, longing desperately for the dark hand that gripped his soul to relinquish its grasp. It has been a long and frustrating road and Evan has come so very far from where he was. I feel like I spend a great deal of my time holding my breath, fearing if I breathe easy he will start to slip back away from me. He isn’t a star athlete or a Rhodes Scholar, but he can make me laugh like no other. In recent days we have shared more laughter than tears and if he has given me anything at all, it is a place to anchor my hope.

I appreciate that Lilly gleaned ‘fortitude’ out of my colorful character palette. It is a far cry from what I know resembles my authentic self. After all, there is nothing courageous about lying awake night after night allowing my worries and fears to feast on the mucosal lining of my stomach. So, Lilly, the truth is Aunt Karri isn’t a good example of fortitude. I am a closet chicken; A worry swallower. If there is anything I can give you in place of my failed fortitude it would be the lessons these experiences have taught me. Tuck them in your pocket or hang them in the hallway outside your classroom, or hide them away for a time when life gets a little bumpy:

  • A house is just a house. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small, fancy or plain, if it has one bathroom or seventeen. It is the people inside that make it a home.
  • When you grow up, work very hard at whatever job you choose, doing your best is important. Be very careful to not let your work get ahead of your family. Things start to get out of whack when that happens.
  • The genuine people in your life will not care about the house you live in, they will only be concerned about the people inside it.
  • If God blesses you with children, never look at them as anything other than what God created them to be. Never lose sight of the fact that God does not consult you in such matters.
  • Life requires you to be flexible.
  • Don’t let your worries chew on the inside of your belly.
  • It is much easier to keep two bathrooms clean than four. Bigger isn’t always better.
  • Talk to God. He listens…even to us “publics”

    Lilly on Papa's Lap

    Lilly on Papa’s Lap